World The Tokyo Olympics are What the World Needs This Summer | Opinion
Virus delay, sexism row: Tokyo's turbulent Olympic timeline
From a historic coronavirus postponement, to a sexism row prompting its top organiser to resign, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have faced many hurdles. - February 2021: Sexism furore - Yoshiro Mori, chief of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, resigns after his claims that women talk too much in meetings spark a firestorm of criticism. "When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn't restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying," the gaffe-prone 83-year-old said.
The Tokyo Summerhave been a double-edged sword for Japan. After the initial enthusiasm of winning the greatest prize in sporting competition, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic and political turbulence have complicated Japan's commitment to holding the Olympics this year on schedule. Even prior to the latest controversy, 80 percent of Japanese reportedly no longer wanted the Olympics to go ahead as scheduled. Yet the Tokyo Summer Olympics are much bigger than just Japan or its domestic politics, and the country's allies—including the United States—must pull together to make sure the games go on.
If the US boycotts the 2022 Olympics, it should also skip the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley recently joined a growing list of Republican lawmakers who want the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. © Provided by Washington Examiner Haley's opposition to the games is not only justified but something other countries would be smart to follow. “President Xi Jinping wants the propaganda boost of the games,” she wrote in an op-ed. “He remembers well the widespread praise China received after hosting the Summer Olympics in 2008.
Former prime minister Shinzo Abe's untimely exit as the games' chief champion made the going tough for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. However, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, head of the Olympic organizing committee, made matters worse earlier this month with an unforced sexist gaffe, which shone a particularly unfavorable spotlight on the committee. As a result of his comments, 500 volunteers, including three runners for the Olympic torch relay, resigned just a month before the relay is scheduled to start in Fukushima for the symbolic ten-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake triple disaster.
Japan Earthquake - Tsunami Fast Facts
Read CNN's 2011 Japan Earthquake - Tsunami earthquake and learn more about the disaster that struck Japan in March of 2011. © AFP/Getty Images Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Okuma on November 12, 2011. March 11, 2011 - At 2:46 p.m., a 9.1 magnitude earthquake takes place 231 miles northeast of Tokyo at a depth of 15.2 miles. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30-foot waves that damage several nuclear reactors in the area. It is the largest earthquake ever to hit Japan.
These Olympics have been cast as a symbol of mankind's resiliency and triumph over COVID. Shame on all of us if Tokyo's own domestic fatigue and general apathy from the rest of the world sinks this crowning human moment. Japan, more than any other developed country, is uniquely capable of hosting these Olympics—especially as China waits in the wings to pull off its own Winter Olympics six months later, writing the narrative of its rise from COVID villain to hero.
With the lowest coronavirus death and infection rates of any G7 country, Japan received a much-needed boost from its fellow G7 leaders in a joint statement that emphasized its support of the "commitment of Japan to hold the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner this summer as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19." Previous Olympic hosts in London and Rio faced their own challenges and concerns. And while those games overcame relatively minor hiccups compared to the pandemic and current massive anti-Olympics sentiment in Japan, the importance of the global unity and resiliency represented by Tokyo 2020 should not be underestimated.
Tokyo Olympics to Pick Female Minister as Chief, NHK Says
Seiko Hashimoto is set to be selected as the new head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, public broadcaster NHK said Wednesday, after her predecessor stepped down last week over sexist remarks. © Bloomberg Seiko Hashimoto Hashimoto, 56, is a former Olympic speed skater and track cyclist. She is currently the minister for the Olympics, as well as gender equality, and one of only two women in the cabinet. While the selection panel has decided to ask her to take on the post, it’s unclear whether she will accept, NHK said, citing a person connected with the matter.
Despite Mori's sexist comments and the clear lack of political consensus on the Olympics inside the governing Liberal, cancelling would be the worst outcome for all involved. Prime Minister Suga's flagging popularity makes him vulnerable, but the lack of a clear alternative means that he is also invaluable in his insistence to carry on—which he seems committed to do at all costs. New Olympic head Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympic minister and Olympic speed skater and cyclist, heralds a new era and a critical inflection point for Japan away from the smoke-filled old boys' club.
Addressing longstanding issues of gender inequality in Japan won't be easy. But the response to Mori was overwhelming and new for the country—a positive sign despite the challenges that remain. Just as Abe's "Womenomics" efforts haven't changed entrenched Japanese chauvinism but highlighted the practical reasons to include women's voices in board rooms and political decision making, Mori's replacement by Hashimoto won't result in overnight change. It is a symbolic start. But Japan must now focus on the work ahead to pull off a safe Olympics in the midst of a pandemic with a slower vaccine rollout than many other countries. Almost every other major sporting event is moving forward, from the Super Bowl to sports leagues globally, including in the U.S., where COVID is far more rampant. The importance of hosting these Olympics should not be underestimated—as not one has been canceled in peacetime.
Olympic Shuffle Highlights Japan’s Missed Target for New Leaders
The shuffling of senior Olympic leadership positions in Japan has put a spotlight on an uncomfortable truth in the country: After years of public statements in support of women in leadership, there still don’t seem to be enough to go around. In its search for a replacement for Yoshiro Mori, 83, who resigned last week after disparaging women for talking too much, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee landed on former athlete Seiko Hashimoto. But she already had a job in the cabinet, as Minister for the Olympics and held the gender equality portfolio.
The U.S. has the highest stakes, with the largest Olympic delegation, one of the most lucrative TV markets in the world and its close ally Japan hosting, as opposed to its main rival next year. Therefore, focusing on a scaled-back but competitive Olympics, with vaccines encouraged and proper COVID measures in place, is in our collective interest. Japan does not aspire to be a superpower like China or the U.S., but with its carbon-neutral pledge, commitment to digital transformation and sustainable economic growth to support an aging population, it is an exemplar of the future for us all.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is about more than just Japan and we in the West must come to Japan's aid to make them happen. We know how to deal with COVID and now we need to focus on the optimism that this summer will bring and the hope for humankind that the games represent, starting with a global celebration of the human spirit in Tokyo.
Joshua Walker (@drjwalk) is president and CEO of Japan Society. Follow @japansociety.
The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.
Decision on foreign spectators up to Japan, says IOC's Coates .
US-OLYMPICS-2020-COATES:Decision on foreign spectators up to Japan, says IOC's CoatesThe comments came after Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said she wanted to reach a decision on foreign spectators by the start of the torch relay on March 25. Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa said the government would decide by the month-end.