Organisers of the Sport for Tomorrow programme have announced the initiative had reached 12 million people by the end of March ©Sport For Tomorrow

Organisers of the Sport for Tomorrow programme say the initiative reached 12 million people in 204 countries worldwide by the end of March this year.

The programme has been led by the Government of Japan in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan Sports Agency.

Initially the programme was aimed at reaching 10 million people in 100 countries in the build-up to the Olympics and Paralympics, following a vow made at the 2013 International Olympic Committee Session in Buenos Aires where Tokyo was awarded the Games.

Organisers have said the programme has reached 25 countries and regions in Asia, as well as 54 in Africa, 17 in Oceania and 33 in Latin America.

Five countries in North America, 16 in the Middle East and 54 in Europe have also participated in the programme.

Organisers say this means 12,065,656 people had been reached by their initiatives by March 2020.

The Sport For Tomorrow project has been focused on promoting sport and enhancing competitiveness, changing the world through the power of sport, and introducing Japanese sport and culture - as well as international exchange programmes - through sport.

This has included aiming to assist developing nations in promoting sport, with Japan offering assistance to countries and enabling them to organise sporting events.

Degree courses and seminars have been offered as part of the programme, including highlighting Japanese culture and sports management.

The Japan Anti-Doping Organisation has also supported educational programmes as part of the scheme.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who announced on Friday (August 28) that he is stepping down for health reasons, praised the Sport For Tomorrow project last year.

"This programme has contributed to the development of our relationships with governments and national sports federations of countries around the world by responding promptly and in detail to their requests such as various types of exchanges through sports, supporting sports promotion, dispatching coaches, providing equipment and developing facilities," Abe said.

"As a result, Japan has enhanced its presence in the international sports communities. 

"In particular, Japan has provided steady training support for athletes and coaches by dispatching coaches to countries that seek to compete in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo for the first time and holding training camps in Japan.

"There are countries including Bhutan and Grenada which have thus fulfilled the conditions for competing in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 

"The athletes representing countries appearing for the first time will undoubtedly compete with great energy, bringing joy and inspiration to the world.

"Just imagining these scenes fills me with great excitement.

"I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the organizations and individuals who support this programme and have provided assistance in various forms.

"I would also like to ask them to continue to expand the wonder of sports worldwide."

With the Game postponed until 2021, organisers are continuing to carry out the Sport for Tomorrow programme.