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Report: Countdown to Kickoff
25/09/2018

September 20th 2018 marked exactly one year to go before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan. To mark this event, the Japan Foundation and SOAS held a symposium on the topics of rugby in Japan and sporting mega-events themselves. This event was the third in its series and the speakers presented to an excited full house at the SOAS Alumni Lecture Theatre. 


Our first speakers, offering a joint presentation on the history of rugby in Japan until the outbreak of World War Two, were Phil McGowan (World Rugby Museum) and Mike Galbraith (De Montford University). Their talks gave great insights into how rugby came to Japan and how it blossomed into a fully-fledged sport whilst showcasing their work into tracing Japanese rugby back to its earliest game. 


This was followed by Helen Macnaughtan's (SOAS) wonderful talk about how rugby flourished with the help of with the help of heavy industry companies following World War Two. Finally Bringing us right up to the present day and the current state of rugby in Japan and the national and local teams. 


The third speaker, Hilary Frank (Cornwall Council), gave us a series of personal insights into her work at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup. This personal approach gave the audience a chance to hear a side of the story that is rarely told. 


Our final speaker was Simon Chadwick (Salford University), who was able to show the economic side of these mega-events and offer a balanced and animated talk on the benefits and losses associated with hosting them. The talks were finished off with a Q&A session hosted by J. Simon Rofe (SOAS), with the audience providing some challenging questions for the speakers. 


Finally, to cap the evening off, there was a reception hosted by Sake Samurai, featuring two sommeliers on hand to offer tastings and give advice on sake. This gave the audience a chance to informally speak to the speakers and organisers, and to chat to each other about the evening.