THE one-year countdown to the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 was celebrated, on Friday evening, at the residence of Japanese ambassador Tatsuo Hirayama, in St Clair. TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis also confirmed preparations are well under way and Team TTO will be based in the town of Osaki for a pre-Games training camp.

Lewis also said the TTOC is hoping to take TT's national instrument to the Olympic stage. Japan's love for TT Carnival is no secret and the TTOC is trying to get the International Olympic Committee to allow Team TTO to play a steelpan version of the national anthem instead of the British Philharmonic orchestra version.

Hirayama and his wife, Sachiko, welcomed a number of TT's past and present athletes to the celebrations, including 1964 Olympian and double medallist (400m and 4x400) Wendell Mottley, his Olympic relay teammate Edwin Skinner, and TT's 1st Olympic champ Hasely Crawford.

Hirayama, speaking in a packed room at his residence, tongue-in-cheek apologised for the congestion, saying he was trying to re-create the atmosphere expected for next year's Olympics.

He hailed Japan and TT's close diplomatic ties and said both have made significant sporting strides simultaneously.

He said the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was the first to be held in Asia and the first held since TT became an independent nation.

Hirayama noted TT won 4x400 gold at the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama, Japan two months ago, with the host nation placing a creditable fourth.

"For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the Games' vision is 'Sport has the power to change the world and our future.' Indeed, just as the Tokyo 1964 Games completely transformed Japan, so too the Tokyo 2020 Games are the most innovative in history. It will bring positive reform to the world by building on three concepts: striving for your personal best, accepting one another and passing on legacy for the future."

Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe was also present and reminded TT's athletes that although the public is usually transfixed on medals, there was more to the Olympics than a place on the podium.

"To the athletes in the room – especially those who are going for the first time -- the Olympic Games belong to you. As you prepare, I urge you to give your all, give these Games the magic we all desire through your performances and your conduct.

"Remember that you are representing yourself, your family, your communities and your country, but most of all you are representing humanity. So while we look forward to the medals -- the bronze, the silvers, the golds -- and all that represent Olympic glory, remember the Olympics mean more than just your athletic performance. You are a beacon of light, an icon of hope, a representation of who we truly are and who we can still become. Remember you are role models for the young act responsibly, for there is no glory without responsibility."

Cudjoe also told the Paralympians that they too play a vital role to send a message that inclusion, equality and empowerment are important in the modern world.

Commenting on the arrangements for the training camp in Osaki, the TTOC boss said the Miyagi town was used for the 2019 World Relays and he is hoping it brings more luck for the Tokyo Games.

Lewis also stressed the power of sport today as it offers much needed inspiration for youths in a time where murders are rampant.

He said, "In a season where there is so much crime and blood is flowing on the streets, what do we use to give the youth and young people hope that they can aspire to greatness? The power of sport, the power of the Olympic Games, whether you agree or not, come the 24th of July (2020) everybody will be transfixed to watch the opening ceremony."