Bill Sweeney

As we enter 2019 it feels an important moment in our countdown to Tokyo 2020, with our planning for the Games ramping up even further.

We recently returned from a productive and informative trip to Tokyo with an overall feeling that their state of readiness and the level of positive public attitude to the 2020 Summer Games exceeds that of many previous hosting cities. 

The incredible achievements of Tokyo 1964 act as a backdrop for much expectation and legacy benefits from 2020.

The end of 2018 also gives us time for reflection and there has been much to be proud of this year. 

Team GB athletes made history at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games and we also gained an insight into the future with the next generation performing well at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

As the BBC Sports Personality nomination list was confirmed last weekend it reminded everyone of the impact of Olympic sport with one of our most successful ever athletes recognised last year in the form of Sir Mo Farah. 

Lizzy Yarnold was Britain's star performer at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
Lizzy Yarnold was Britain's star performer at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics

He was succeeded, and deservedly so, by Geraint Thomas, himself a two-time gold medallist in Beijing and London. Dina Asher-Smith and Pyeongchang star Lizzy Yarnold both also made the six-athlete shortlist.

It was a special moment for Yarnold whose achievements for Team GB in Pyeongchang, as well as her commitment and ambassadorial role to the sport of skeleton, were rightly recognised as she enters a new chapter in her life post-retirement and the birth of her first child.

Fast forward to today and our planning and energy as an organisation is focused on Tokyo. To many it seems like a long way away but there is still much to do in a relatively short period of time. We are pleased and excited about our planning to date and confident that it puts us in a good place to compete against very strong competition in 2020.

We know that planning and follow-up will continue up until the first person steps onto the field of play in Tokyo and the execution will not stop until we set foot back in the UK after the Games are complete.

In sport, positive teamwork makes the difference between success or failure and exceptional performance requires exceptional circumstances. Working with the National Governing Bodies, commercial partners and our colleagues in Japan, we feel things are taking shape. 

Tokyo is an environment that will excite and amaze and its unique and complex culture will present many challenges and opportunities.

Our time in Tokyo told us again what a hospitable, polite and organised country Japan is. One of our primary objectives is to treat our hosts with humility and respect, and play our role as partners in delivering a memorable occasion, and leave with lasting relationships. 

We will leave a positive impression as ambassadors for our country, not only collectively as a team but individually - as athletes, coaches and all the support staff. 

Preparations for Tokyo 2020 will kick up a gear in 2019 ©Getty Images
Preparations for Tokyo 2020 will kick up a gear in 2019 ©Getty Images

I visited Miyamoto City during my trip and was hosted by Mayor Takamatsu. It is a region that was impacted severely during the devastating earthquake of 2011 and we are working closely on a number of opportunities which we hope will establish lasting ties beyond 2020.

The UK is in a unique position to have hosted a recent Games and as such our knowledge and insight is something we're keen to share with our colleagues in Japan. I enjoyed a good discussion with the new Olympic Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada to discuss learnings from 2012, Tokyo 2020 legacy and Team GB preparations in Japan.

Tokyo 2020 has already welcomed the world to show them what great progress is being made and we have no doubt that it will be a Games to remember. We firmly hope that it will be one to remember for Team GB, the athletes and the nation as well.

We wish all our friends in the Olympic community a relaxing holiday period and best wishes for a busy 2019.