The Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) has announced the extension of its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two Japanese partners that aims to help athletes prepare for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Kazuo Nakayama, Mayor of Ryugasaki, and Toshiaki Nojiri, President of the Ryutsu Keizai University (RKU), signed the MoU along with ONOC President Robin Mitchell at a virtual ceremony.
Mitchell said the partnership had the ability to "ease burdens" on athletes from smaller countries following the postponement of the Olympics to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the first MoU was agreed in 2017, Mitchell said it had delivered "good results" for Pacific Islands athletes.
Over the past three years, Ryugasaki and RKU have hosted numerous training camps for judoka from Oceanian countries including Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu ahead of major competitions.
Two athletes from Fiji and Guam are currently enrolled at RKU to carry out their studies while training for the Olympics.
Another female judoka from Kiribati has been training in Japan since May 2020 in a bid to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
"Given 15 of our 16 ONOC Members are Pacific Small Island Developing States with limitations of distance, communications, and access to sporting facilities, coaches, nutritionists and medical experts, and mostly, the required opportunity for active competition, the friendship with Ryugasaki and RKU is invaluable," said Mitchell.
"There is immense gratitude across the region for this relationship."
Mitchell confirmed that ONOC had also agreed to participate in many community outreach projects as part of the MoU.
"The city of Ryugasaki has been, and will continue to provide facilities, training environment and accommodation to participating athletes," said Mitchell.
"It will also make necessary adjustments to community outreach projects as and when required.
"RKU will provide Pacific Islands’ athletes with professional insight, coaching, physical support and staff for pre-Games camps.
"Being an island country itself, Japan is part of the Pacific and close to the Oceania family of nations, particularly through the Olympic movement and as proven through this friendship.
"ONOC looks forward to deepening this friendship through exchange in sport and culture."
Ricardo Blas, ONOC secretary general and President of the Guam National Olympic Committee, welcomed the extension of the MoU.
"The 2017 partnership was built on personal engagement and friendships built through judo and this contributed to Ryugasaki city and RKU being chosen to host Pacific islander athletes in pre-Games training for the Tokyo Olympics," added Blas.
"The Guam Judo Federation and RKU have a relationship lasting more than ten years and this contributed to the Oceania relationship."