Will the equivalent of one vending machine drink an hour be enough to gather the 80,000 volunteers the event is seeking?

Ever since Tokyo was chosen as host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, people across Japan have been excited by the prospect of watching the finest athletes in the world compete on Japanese soil. However, the public has shown decidedly less enthusiasm about volunteering when the games actually begin.

First came concerns over the lofty credentials the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee was looking for in volunteers, but recently the issue critics are most vocal about is the drain on potential volunteers’ time and finances. In hopes of encouraging students to volunteer, proposals have been made such as shifting exam periods so as not to overlap with the Games or awarding course credits for volunteer activities. And now the Organizing Committee is adding a bit of monetary incentive too, as on September 18 it approved a plan to pay volunteers a flat per-day amount.

Volunteers will be given 1,000 yen (US$9) per day, provided they work at least an eight-hour shift (which includes breaks and stand-by periods). However, this isn’t a salary for services rendered. The payment is intended as compensation to cover volunteers’ transportation expenses to and from the venues they’ll be working at, since no lodging is being provided for them (meaning volunteers who don’t live within commuting distance of the Tokyo-area venues will be on their own as far as paying for hotels or other accommodations).

The committee says that 1,000 yen per day is the maximum amount they can offer to volunteers while remaining within their budget constraints for the Games. However, with Olympic sponsors said to have pledged some 400 billion yen, some critics think the committee can do better than paying volunteers 125 yen per hour, venting their frustration online with comments such as:

“So the members of the Organizing Committee only get 1,000 yen a day too, right?”
“1,000 yen? Isn’t that number missing a zero?”
“It’s like they’re making fun of the volunteers.”
“Is there some reason they don’t want to pay more than that?”
“If paying volunteers more than 1,000 yen a day is going to wreck your budget, then don’t host the Olympics.”

▼ An hour’s worth of volunteering

Of course, one could also make the argument that volunteering, by definition, is doing something without any compensation given in return, and by that metric, it’s actually generous of the committee to be making any gesture to cover transportation costs, as 1,000 yen should cover most single-day round-trip transportation routes for volunteers living in the Tokyo area.

The official start of volunteer sign-ups is coming up on September 26, at which time the committee will get its first real chance to gauge whether or not it’s done enough to attract the 80,000 volunteers it’s seeking, or whether it needs to up the ante.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun
Photos ©SoraNews24
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