“I was I was hit so many times, I can’t count … we were all called to the coach and I was hit in the face in front of everyone. I was bleeding, but he did not stop hitting me. I did say that my nose was bleeding, but he did not stop.” — these words of Japanese Athlete Daiki A, 23, show the real horror that the Japanese athletes face ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
A year away from the rearranged Tokyo Olympics, the Human Rights Watch in its report has claimed of physical and verbal abuse aimed of Japan’s young athletes. In the 67 page report “I Was Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count’: Abuse of Child Athletes in Japan,” the Human Rights Watch has said about child abuse in sports in schools and federations in Japan.
The report also said that the Japanese Olympic Committee in 2013 had promised to take steps to wipe out violence among its sports federations. This promise was given after an internal survey found that more than 10 per cent of the athletes were victims of harassment.
“Physical violence as a coaching technique has a long tradition in Japanese sport, often seen as essential to achieving excellence in competition and in personal character. This dangerous tradition has made the eradication of physical abuse in sport especially difficult. Coaches, parents, and even some players hold onto the mistaken belief that physical abuse in sport has value—and children suffer as a result,” the report said.
It also pointed out that the authorities have not done enough since the promise. The Human Rights Watch demanded the Japan Sports Council and the JOC to use the upcoming Olympics as a catalyst for change. It noted child abuse in sport is a global problem and that the systems for reporting abuse are opaque, unresponsive, and inadequate.
They came up with the report through interviews and a nationwide online survey. They interviewed athletes from more than 50 sports. The athletes reportedly complained of abuses like punching in the face, kicking, beating with objects like bats or bamboo kendo sticks, being deprived of water, whipped with whistles or racquets, choked and also sexually abused. Te Human Rights Watch held 56 interviews with current and former athletes, representing at least 16 different sports and at least 16 different prefectures. “These athletes included 44 men and 12 women, and ranged between 13 and 53 years old. Of these athletes, at least 26 were 24-years-old or younger and thus still children (defined in international law as any person under the age of 18) when the 2013 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence in Sport was issued; as such, some, or all of them, should have benefitted from changes in practices resulting from the declaration. At least 9 athletes interviewed also went on to become coaches, an experience that was also captured in the interviews,” the report said.
The report pointed out that 19 per cent indicated they had been hit, slapped, punched, kicked, and beaten with an object while participating in sports. While 18 percent said they experienced verbal abuse, five per cent reported experiencing sexual assault.