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Hundreds of G8 Summit Volunteers Translates into Big Job For Naha Firm

By: Sheila J. Vaughen

Date Posted: 2000-06-23

A specialized language and communications firm, led by a noted female entrepreneur, is training a group of about 600 men and women who have volunteered their time and skills for the upcoming Kyushu-Okinawa G8 Summit. Yukiko Miyazato, President of The Executive Link, spoke about her company's involvement in the Summit and its preparations, as well as what it means for Okinawa.

"This is the first time that Japan has hosted such an important event outside of Tokyo," explained Miyazato. "This will be our chance to show ourselves to the rest of the world in a positive way."

Miyazato said that since Okinawa was selected as the host site in April of last year, business all across the prefecture has been on the rise. "Even though its not taking place for another two months, the Summit has already had an impact on business here," she said. "Our company has been especially busy, as have many others with whom we have contact."

Miyazato, a Naha native, was recently named by the Japanese version of Forbes magazine as one of Japan's 50 Leading Female Entrepreneurs. Previously Miyazato was also a co-host of "Okinawa World Network" which was aired on Okinawa Cable Network.

Miyazato spoke about the tremendous response that came to a call for volunteers to assist with the Summit. "When the need for volunteers was publicized in local Okinawan media, within three weeks, more than 1600 people had responded," she said. It was determined by the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the G8 Summit Host Preparation Council that a large group of volunteers would be needed to help handle the huge numbers of press and government officials expected.

However, they did not have plans for 1600 people. Therefore, after about three months, the mass was narrowed to 600. "We have some very talented people here, as well as some with good basic skills who really wanted to help," said Miyazato.

As a group, the languages spoken by the volunteers include: Japanese, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese and Spanish. To bring everyone up to speed, twelve of the company's registered instructors held classes over four months in Naha, Nago and the Kadena area. The last of the training classes will be held this month.

Small clusters of volunteers are to be stationed at locations throughout the island - at Summit sites in Nago, the airport, various exhibition booths, tourist attractions, memorial sites and hotels. Their duties will include providing Summit related information, serving as interpreters, assisting in making reservations, and explaining the contemporary culture and history of Okinawa.

Three of Japan's best linguists will serve as official interpreters for the Summit. One of these, is Tokyo resident Fujiko Hara. She is also a contract language instructor of the Executive Link who travels to Okinawa about every quarter to teach.

The official interpreters will serve as Japanese-English interpreters for the main meeting of the heads of state and the government. Since virtually all international meetings are conducted in English, the other non-English speaking countries will bring their own interpreters.

Miyazato discussed how the Summit would help Okinawa obtain more business from conferences. "This is a beautiful place to host conferences and conventions for business as well as political groups. The Summit will draw attention to all of Okinawa, whether good, or not so good, it will all be exposed to the world."

She also spoke about the importance of Okinawa putting forward the best image to the world at such a high profile event. "Up until now, Okinawa has watched from afar situations such as the protests in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meetings. This time it is our turn to be seen through the eyes of the media."

To help ensure that the world sees a well-organized and receptive place, the G8 Summit Host Preparation Council has tried to anticipate and prepare for any potential problems. It is expected that there will be at least a few demonstrations and protests drawn to the island by the media light.

The contract for the G8 Summit is not the first time the company has been involved in international and political events. Over the past year, major interpreting contracts have included: a speech given by Dr. Henry Kissinger, a former US Secretary of State; and a report of the Prime Minister's Commission on Japan's Goals in the 21st Century. Other recent high profile contracts have included a Netherlands-Japan Symposium; Okinawa International Foundation: The Japan Foundation; and the Asia-Pacific Agenda Project Okinawa Forum.

The Executive Link, formed in 1992, also specializes in international conference planning and coordination, translations for business and language instruction. In addition to the contract for the volunteers, the company has been busy with their English language instruction division as both private and public organizations prepare for the coming tide of English-speaking press.

Miyazato's other activities as a top business leader include serving as: member of the American Chamber of Commerce on Okinawa; a Board member of the Okinawa-Hawaii Association; and on the Co-Commander's Panel, a joint military leader and civilian information exchange committee.

Miyazato looks forward to a time when Okinawa will be viewed as a thriving business destination to match its growing reputation as a favorite tourist destination. "Globalization, whether you like it or not, could be a driving force for Okinawa business," she explained.

"Okinawa is originally blessed with a very healthy environment, strong people and many natural resources. We should and can be assets to the other areas of Japan. With the Summit the rest of the world will see what we have to offer."

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