TOKYO, 18 Sep - The ultimate measure of success of Rugby World Cup 2019 will be the number of smiles on faces over the coming six weeks, says the tournament's director of workforce Deb Jones.
The affable, Japanese-speaking Kiwi, who held the same position at RWC 2011 in New Zealand, oversees the 13,000-strong Team No-Side volunteer brigade, 600 of whom completed their volunteer training at Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday.
Their job is to provide match attendees and fanzone patrons at Asia’s first Rugby World Cup with the selfless Omotenashi hospitality for which Japan is famous.
"Success for all of us will come down to how happy the volunteers and the spectators are, along with every client they face,” Jones said of her team, who have been in training since February.
"The Rugby World Cup is pretty special, only coming around every four years, and we just want people to enjoy their experience. Hopefully, the rugby in the middle of it all will go along with that as well,” she said.
About 38,000 people applied for the volunteer positions. There is a roughly even split of males and females, and an age range from 18 to 88.
Recruitment was done in a unique way, said Jones.
Plenty of work ahead
"Instead of the one-on-one interviews that you normally do, we got our applicants in and we played a few games to see how they would communicate with each other. We made sure they knew how to laugh and have fun.
"We’ve got to have fun because if we do, everyone around us will have fun. I just want to see smiling faces everywhere I look.”
Jones is not alone in wanting the spirit of the tournament to extend beyond the grandstands of the 12 competition venues.
Tournament organisers want the volunteers to embody the friendly spirit that Japanese rugby has nurtured over the years and convey the message of "seeing the world as one".
They have plenty of work ahead of them.
The volunteers - 75 per cent of them will be Tokyo-based - will be at airports, train stations, fan zones, and match and training venues. They will be driving fleet vehicles, working with guests in protocol, helping out the media and getting involved in technology and back-of-house issues.
They will also be positioned along the 'last mile' between local train stations and Tokyo Stadium to support fans on their match-day journey.
ラグビーワールドカップ2019のボランティアに貸与されるユニフォームなどが支給されました。年甲斐もなく緊張してきました。The wear & other items for RWC 2029 volunteers were just provided. Became feeling tension, kind of. Should be old enough to cope with, though. #RWC2019 #ラグビー pic.twitter.com/mwAqy7A4n5— Kochan (@kounosuke1954) September 9, 2019
Most of Wednesday’s 600 graduates will be spread across the stadium in either fan-facing, spectator support roles or behind the scenes supporting the Tournament Guest Programme, ceremonies and RWC 2019 Workforce.
Nineteen-year-old Urara Murasawa, an economics and English literature student, will be a spectator services team leader.
"When I heard the World Cup was coming to Japan I got very excited,” Murasawa said.
"I’ve been a rugby fan since I went to an Australia match in Tokyo five or so years ago and all my friends are rugby fans too.
"Being here for me is a dream come true and it might even lead to a role at the (Tokyo) Olympics in 2020,” she said.