June 24, 2014
Former Japanese Prime Minister and head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, right, gives former Olympic hammer-throw champion Koji Murofushi, left, a letter of appointment in Tokyo, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. The 39-year-old
Eugene Hoshiko

TOKYO (AP) Former Olympic hammer-throw champion Koji Murofushi has been appointed sports director of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Fluent in English, the 39-year-old Murofushi was appointed Tuesday to the role which acts as a liaison between athletes, international sports federations and the organizing committee.

''The most important thing is the needs of the athletes,'' said Murofushi, who has participated in four Olympics. ''In the role of sports director, I always have to be sensitive to the needs of the athletes.''

The sports director post was introduced at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Usually, athletes from the host country or former athletes with Olympic experience are appointed.

Murofushi won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and is still actively competing. He won his 20th consecutive national title in hammer throw at the Japanese athletics championships this month.

Murofushi, who also won a bronze medal at London 2012, is also a member of the Tokyo 2020 Executive Board which is already grappling with some difficult issues.

A major attraction of Tokyo's winning bid was that a majority of the venues will be within an 8-kilometer (5-mile) radius of the Athlete's Village. But Japanese Olympic organizers have said they are reviewing that plan because of concerns over rising costs. Some venues may have to be moved to neighboring municipalities.

''The bottom line is we need to create an environment where the athletes can perform well,'' Murofushi said. ''The athletes have to sleep well, eat well and have good transportation. I know there are some issues with the venues but my job is to help create optimum conditions for the athletes.''

Heat will also be an issue for competitors, with Tokyo temperatures in late July and early August commonly being in the band of 33 to 40 degrees Celsius (91-104) with 80 percent humidity.

''Every venue will have to take care to help athletes and ensure their safety and this is something that we will be working on,'' Murofushi said.

Murofushi is currently associate professor in sports science at Chukyo University in Nagoya.

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