Japan has been fixated on the Olympic Motion because the occasion started. Why?
The Olympic flag and the flag of Japan fly throughout the opening ceremony within the Olympic Stadium on the 2020 Summer season Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.
Credit score: AP Picture/David J. Phillip
Since March 2020, when Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) formally agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer season Olympics, Japan has skilled a yr like none different in Olympic historical past.
A small however vocal group of activists (each domestically in Japan and internationally) opposed Tokyo’s internet hosting of the occasion from the second the successful bid was introduced in 2013, with a variety of causes for his or her opposition. Many have been involved over severe environmental, public well being, social, and financial points that wanted to be addressed after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant meltdown, as cash and a spotlight have been diverted away from cleanup efforts in northeastern Japan and into Tokyo’s Olympic infrastructure enhancements. Others objected to broader forces of gentrification and the displacement of marginalized populations that accompany nearly all sports activities mega-events. The superstitious amongst Japanese, together with former Prime Minister (and one-time Olympian) Aso Taro, declared the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be cursed, with so many public gaffes and controversies arising within the planning course of.
After the postponement was introduced in March 2020, the small group of activists opposing the Olympics dramatically expanded to incorporate a broad coalition of individuals and establishments voicing concern over the Olympics transferring ahead when the COVID-19 pandemic remained a problem of world concern. Regardless of the worldwide and home outcry, the IOC and the Japanese Organizing Committee didn’t cancel the occasion and a considerably somber Opening Ceremony befell with out incident on July 23. Sounds of protesters exterior the nearly-empty stadium could possibly be heard, and the each day COVID-19 rely amongst Olympic athletes, Olympic associates, and most of the people in Japan has continued to rise.
Whether or not the occasion shall be remembered because the beacon of concord and togetherness that organizers hope for, or as a misguided public well being catastrophe, stays to be seen. We do know that Tokyo’s postponed 2020 Olympics shall be remembered for extra than simply the unimaginable acts of athleticism we see on-line and on tv (in contrast to Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics, only a few spectators can watch the occasions reside). Commentators have already dubbed these the “Coronavirus Video games.”
Whereas the Olympics are all the time “extra than simply video games,” Japan’s involvement with the Olympic Motion over the previous century and as much as the current day has been laden with which means and significance and might inform us a lot concerning the nation’s broader considerations and ambitions.
Whereas officers couldn’t have predicted that Japan would develop into the first-ever host nation to have its Olympic Video games postponed, Japan is a nation with a protracted historical past of “firsts” inside the Olympic Motion. After the fashionable Olympic Video games started in 1896 as a wholly European-American, male-only occasion, in 1909 Japan grew to become the primary Asian nation to have a member serve on the IOC. Shortly thereafter it grew to become the primary Asian nation to ship male athletes to the Olympics in 1912, and a feminine athlete in 1928 (a Japanese lady received a silver medal within the first-ever 800 meter monitor race for girls on the Olympics).
Japan was the primary Asian nation chosen to host the Olympics in 1940, although it finally forfeited that proper (and the 1940 Video games have been finally cancelled altogether). Within the wake of World Conflict II, Tokyo once more received the correct to host the Summer season Video games in 1964. Japan was the primary Asian nation to host the Winter Olympics in Sapporo in 1972, the primary to host a second Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998, and it launched a number of extra failed bids earlier than changing into the primary Asian nation to host its second Summer season Olympics with the successful 2020 bid.
These pioneering roles and near-constant want to host the occasion beg the query: Why has Japan been so fixated on the Olympic Motion because the occasion started?