Taizo Watanabe (© AFP / Getty Images)
World Athletics is saddened by the news that Taizo Watanabe, a World Athletics Council Member from 1999 to 2007, died on Sunday (15). Watanabe, a long-time Japanese diplomat, was 85.
Born in Tokyo Prefecture on 16 March 1934, Watanabe was a standout middle distance runner during his high school years, a sporting career that set the foundation for his life-long relationship with athletics.
Watanabe became a Senior Vice President of the Japanese Association of Athletics Federations (JAAF) in 1999, and later that year began his term as a World Athletics Council Member. He served the global governing body as a member of the Marketing Commission, with a strong focus on working to expand the reach of World Athletics beyond its traditional base in Europe. He stepped down from his position after the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.
Watanabe's career in diplomacy began in the 1970s at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1984 we was appointed Japan's Consul General in Los Angeles then moved to Washington DC in 1987 where he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Japanese Embassy. From 1989 to 1992 he served as Director General of the Public Information and Cultural Affairs Bureau and as Press Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassadorships to Egypt and Indonesia followed in the 1990s.
Watanabe also served as Director of the Japan Amateur Sports Association, as a Senior Advisor to All Nippon Airways and as a professor at Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University.
At the 49th World Athletics Congress in 2013, he was granted the title of Honorary Life Personal Member.