Surfing town hopes for economic benefit of Olympics one year after Games Surfing town hopes for economic benefit of Olympics one year after Games
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Surfing town hopes for economic benefit of Olympics one year after Games

    NHK World
    Correspondent
    One year ago, the sleepy Japanese beach town of Ichinomiya hosted the first ever Olympic surfing competition. Now, it's trying to ensure the economic benefits of the Games are felt by the entire community for years to come.

    Sunny skies and high waves have long made Ichinomiya, east of Tokyo, a surfer's paradise. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the pristine beaches every summer.

    Many, including professional surfers, say the beach at Ichinomiya is one of the best on Japan's coasts.

    Olympic organizers initially planned for Ichinomiya to host some 6,000 spectators daily during the Olympics. Tourist developments quickly sprang up throughout the area, with the number of accommodation facilities skyrocketing from just ten to 200.

    But the coronavirus pandemic meant spectators were not allowed at any Olympic events. The expected wave of tourists never arrived in Ichinomiya. The inaugural Olympic surfing competitions were held in front of empty beaches.

    The temporary viewing structures installed for the events were quickly taken down. Now the beach looks exactly as it did before the Olympics.

    But a new tourist center provides visitors with information about the town's place in Olympic history. The building also includes showers where surfers can wash off the sand after a day on the beach.

    Uzawa Kiyohisa owns a nearby surf shop and heads the local tourism association. He believes the Olympics will end up being a blessing for the town.

    Uzawa Kiyohisa is one of the locals expecting Ichinomiya to benefit from the Olympic legacy.

    "I think the Olympics inspired many people to visit Ichinomiya," he says. "There's a chance for everyone, including surfers, to show there's more to the town than just waves."

    This summer, surfers and beachgoers are filling up the restaurants and accommodation sites along the coast. But they have yet to make their way into town. Watanabe Takaaki, Ichinomiya's public relations manager, says the next step is to share the benefits of Olympic-fueled tourism with the entire community.

    "The challenge will be how to maintain the name recognition we gained during the Olympics."

    The Tokyo Games brought unprecedented attention to Ichinomiya. The town is hoping to ride this wave of momentum for as long as possible.

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