EDITORIAL | One year later: respecting the legacy of the Tokyo Olympics

Japan Racing Association

A year has passed since the opening ceremony of Japan’s second Olympic Games at the National Stadium. Normally, July 23 would be a glorious day for the Japanese sports community. And this time?

The opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics took place on October 10, a date remembered each year as “Sports Day”, a national holiday which is currently celebrated on the second Monday of October. However, July 23 of this year appeared on the calendar as a perfectly normal Saturday, with no mention of the Olympics.

It is perhaps only natural that memories of the excitement and emotions brought by the exploits of Japanese athletes fade over time. However, we are witnessing a retrospective evaluation of the event as a negative legacy. What a sad situation.

Postponing the event was the right decision

According to the organizing committee’s final report, the cost of the Games nearly doubled to 1.4 trillion yen ($10.346 billion) from the 734 billion yen ($5.425 billion) originally projected when Tokyo’s bid has been proposed. The fate of the new national stadium, which was built at a cost of more than 150 billion yen ($1.1 billion), has been lost in the debate over its future use.

With such an amount of public money invested, it is natural that transparency is demanded regarding the process that led to the expansion of the scale of the Games, how the expenditure was used and the profitability of the event. .

However, it would be unwise to measure the success or failure of the Tokyo Games solely on the basis of the amount of money spent. We need to properly assess the tangible and intangible assets left by the Olympics and think about how they can be used in our society in the future. The one-year stage gives us the opportunity to think carefully about this question.

Faced with the global crisis of spreading COVID-19 infections, the event was postponed for a year for the first time in its history. In addition to giving up the honor of hosting overseas spectators, Japan was forced to make the difficult decision in principle to hold the event without spectators just before the opening ceremony.

If the event had been canceled, Japan would have been left with nothing.

Japan rose to the challenge

The decision of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to postpone the Games and his successor, then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, to host the Games is to be applauded.

Japan has risen to the challenge of balancing socio-economic activities and infection prevention in a global pandemic. The Tokyo Organizing Committee has carried out rigorous testing and quarantines, and adjusted its efficient staff to be compatible with the simplified scale of the Games.

It should be a matter of pride that the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo went off successfully, with no outbreak of infections.

Family affair: Siblings Hifumi (left) and Uta Abe celebrate their judo gold medals on the same day at the Tokyo Olympics.

The power of sports

Japan won a total of 58 medals, including a record 27 gold medals. The “power of sport” that inspired athletes in the midst of a pandemic should also be highly commended.

At the women’s skateboard park, we saw rivals congratulate athletes who failed to perform their very difficult tricks and reward them with hugs. They showed us that the value of the sweat and tears needed to get to the Olympics transcends all differences, such as national borders and race.

Let us remember once again that it was sport that provided the source of empathy that united people in those dark days of the pandemic.

Achieve an inclusive society

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics also demonstrated that sport has the great power to change society. In the nearly nine years since it was decided that Japan would host the 2020 Olympics, the city has made great strides in making buildings, streets, airports, stations and d other barrier-free public transport hubs. Hotels and other private accommodations, as well as public places, have improved their communication environment.

In a short time, the city and the consciousness of the people have changed in a way worthy of a welcoming country. There is no doubt that the Tokyo Games served as a catalyst for significant improvements in social infrastructure.

Lessons for Sapporo

Much of the criticism leveled at the Tokyo Olympics has been that the COVID-19 pandemic has robbed the Olympics of an opportunity to recoup its massive initial investment.

Also, despite the principles of diversity and coexistence, the organizing committee has undergone a succession of changes. Yoshiro Mori was forced to step down as Tokyo 2020 chairman, and other senior officials left the committee over comments that, among other things, could be construed as disrespectful to women. The turmoil behind the scenes was flagged around the world as a disgrace to Japan.

It would be extremely unfortunate if these events continued to be remembered as a negative legacy that diminished the legitimacy of the brilliant footprints left by athletes.

The condition of the sports community must also be strictly examined. Before and after the Tokyo Games, scandals involving judo, badminton and other sports organizations erupted one after another. These communities need to think hard about the folly of undermining the value of sport itself.

In a survey of Sapporo citizens in March, less than 60% of respondents supported the city’s bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics. This is not unrelated to the mismanagement of the environment. jock.

Sapporo. (Photo by Agnes Tandler)

Show enthusiasm for Sapporo

What has the Japanese sports community been up to in the past year?

Regarding the level of support for Sapporo’s bid, Yasuhiro Yamashita, President of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), said, “It will be difficult if things continue as they are.” But we want the committee to go a little further.

In other words, to show enthusiasm for bringing back to Sapporo in winter the power of sport demonstrated at the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and to show sincerity in overcoming the doubts of those who are tired of the chaos of the Tokyo Olympics Tokyo.

Are the committee members ready to show their willingness to sweat and work hard to influence public opinion? That’s what we want to know.


(Read the editorial in Japanese on this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun


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