Tokyo Olympic Troubles
There have been many problems with Tokyo’s plans for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games, which it was awarded by the IOC in September 2013 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. First is public apathy. Olympic advocates shout their cause so loudly that the mistaken impression is created that the Games are broadly popular with the public. They are not. Second is the mishandling of the new National Stadium design. Originally planned to hold 80,000 people with a roof and other amenities the cost of the project skyrocketed beyond all expectations until Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government had to take a direct hand in the matter in July 2015 and order it to be scaled back - size and cost - and requested a new design, only weeks away from the construction start date for the already-approved design by British architect Zaha Hadid. Third is the Olympic logo plagiarism scandal that broke in August 2015. The Olympic and Paralympic logos, which were already decided and were being printed on merchandise were found to be too similar to a cinema logo in Liege, Belgium, and a Belgian artist filed a plagiarism lawsuit. The logo was withdrawn in September 2015 and a new design process launched.
Japan wants to use the Olympics to showcase its recovery from the March 2011 triple earthquake, tsunami, nuclear power plant disasters. It wants to showcase the Japan Brand to the world as synonymous with safety, order, efficiency, cleanliness, compactness and economy. But the country has certainly not yet recovered from the 2011 disasters, and ever since September 2013 there has one mishandled fiasco after another. These difficulties are partly due to uncontrollable circumstance, but they are also due to Japan’s native style of management and communication. Truth be told, mishandling, fiasco, obfuscation and imminent disaster are the real Japan Brand. It’s always been so among people, like me, who are too coarse to pretend.
Japan wants to use the Olympics to showcase its recovery from the March 2011 triple earthquake, tsunami, nuclear power plant disasters. It wants to showcase the Japan Brand to the world as synonymous with safety, order, efficiency, cleanliness, compactness and economy.
The last Olympic Games I saw on television was Montreal 1976. I was mesmerized by gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who was the same age as me. (I was also mesmerized by her gym tights.) I don’t see Tokyo 2020 changing that just because I live here. I will never see the new stadium, whatever it turns out to be. I will not attend any events, nor watch them on television, nor will I buy any Olympic goods or souvenirs. I suppose I will read the daily medal count in the print media, if the print media still exists. I haven’t met any Japanese yet who think much differently than this about it. Maybe it’s still too remote for my acquaintances to think about, but so far what I feel from people ranges from apathy to resentment at the cost of it, and the notorious, cynically deceptive manner in which Japan netted the Games.
I am unmoved by the desire to show pride in how the nation has recovered from the March 2011 disasters. Has it recovered? Or, use of the Games as a magnet for investment to boost the perpetually weak economy. I worry that the planned facilities are destined to be gigantic white elephants - an unrecoverable economic loss. With a shrinking and aging population who is supposed to use the facilities when the Games are over? Expectations of an active, healthy population will fail spectacularly.
The glory of sport for its own sake, and the peaceful meeting of nations don’t exist. It’s all corrupt politics and corrupt business, each with its hand in the other’s pocket.
It’s not even that the Olympics represent the epitome of athletic achievement, because each sport has its own world championship, and that ought to be enough.
Let’s close the book on the Olympics.