2020: Tokyo Summer Olympics - special II

Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 5 | Mar 01, 2020
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

Introduction to the Special Issue on Japan’s Olympic’s Summer Games -- Past and Present, Part II
Jeff Kingston

In this collection of essays our authors explore a range of issues not covered in Part 1, examining the broader impact of the Olympic Movement, efforts to spin the message and whether hosting the games is worth the extravagant costs. Two authors focus on the Paralympics, another presents excerpts from a graphic guide to the Olympics while others delve into previous Olympics, what they represented and how they influence the 2020 games. There are also several essays on opposition to the Olympics and lingering concerns about how the government has managed the Fukushima nuclear accident. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic casts an ominous shadow over the games, but hopefully it will abate in time for the games to proceed.

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Special Issue: Japan’s Olympic Summer Games - Past and Present, Part II (Table of Contents)
Jeff Kingston

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Playful Protests and Contested Urban Space: the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Protest Movement
William Andrews

This paper analyzes playful activities within protests against the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It examines their relationship with contested urban space and the legacy of Heiseiera social movements in Japan as well as other anti-Olympics activism. It argues that these practices represent a creative, cultural dimension of the opposition to 2020.

This paper examines protests that have taken place against the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, focusing on the activities of one group and analyzing them as a form of “play” and cultural creativity contesting urban spaces. In this way, the paper highlights an aspect of the protests that links to earlier social movements in Japan as well as a style of protest that transcends the negativity often associated with anti-Olympics activism.

The 2020 Olympics have attracted controversy and criticism for a wide range of reasons, not least the way the Games are presented by the organizers as the “recovery Games” for the Tōhoku region (Singler 2019). A lesser-known cause of opposition is the evictions of homeless communities from Meiji Park and Miyashita Park and the redevelopment of those locations (the former for the New National Stadium and surrounding facilities; the latter for a new hotel and commercial complex by Shibuya City). Campaigners from the movement claim the loss of these parks amounts to the privatization of public space in that the land is sold off and the socially vulnerable (such as the park-dwelling homeless or the tenants of the Kasumigaoka Apartments, a public housing complex that was also demolished as part of the redevelopment of the stadium area) are excluded from locations they have a right to use. “Developers and cities started to look at public parks as unused resources and a city parks law was revised in order for private capital to gain easier access to public parks. Among the various excuses used to support the transformation of city parks into private property, the Olympics have frequently provided justification,” writes Ogawa Tetsuo (2020), one of the leading activists. “If you are a homeless person living in a potential Olympic city, you are not allowed to exist there any longer.”

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Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games
Shaun Burnie


In the run up to the 2020 summer Olympics / Paralympics, multiple violations of the human rights of citizens and workers impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster persist. UN human rights experts have continued to challenge the Abe government over its record. Ignoring basic scientific principles of radiation protection, the government is deliberately distorting reality on actual contamination, the limited effectiveness and scope of decontamination and risks in Fukushima prefecture. Abe’s disinformation narrative on Fukushima is aimed at erasing the image of Fukushima as the location of one of the world’s nuclear disasters, and, by so doing, reviving the prospects for the nation’s nuclear industry. There remains a window in the coming months for a wider understanding of the complex reality in Fukushima, the ongoing radiological conditions and impacts, and the struggle of tens of thousands of evacuees and workers to secure their legal rights.

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An Opportunity for Japan to Change People’s Perception
Alexis Dudden

The Japanese government’s manipulation of athleticism and consumerism to make Fukushima’s radiation problems appear irrelevant takes the Olympics into dangerous new levels of state coercion. This essay urges making radionuclides visible—even metaphorically humanizing them—to grasp the ongoing threat to the people, land, and water that inhabit the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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Anti-Olympic Rallying Points, Public Alienation, and Transnational Alliances
Sonja Ganseforth

Since the radicalization of some leftist movements in the 1960s and 1970s, political activism in Japan is often met with skepticism or suspicion, and social movements are largely characterized by small and senior membership. Anti-Olympic opposition in Japan is largely sustained by activist veterans from this “invisible civil society”. While this activism may alienate the public, connections to other Japanese social movements are rich, especially to the anti-nuclear movement that has emerged since the 2011 nuclear disaster.

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Bringing the Circus to Town: An Anatomy of the Olympic Movement
William W. Kelly

The Summer Olympic Games is the most watched sports mega-event in the world. It is also the costliest, the most politically precarious, and the most strangely constructed sports mega-event on the planet. At the 2020 Games in Tokyo, athletes and spectators alike will be focused on the elite bodies in motion, in agonistic contests and aesthetic displays of excellence and effort. Behind the scenes, however, is a less apparent but deeply powerful institutional and ideological apparatus—the Olympic Movement—that sets the stage, establishes the rules, and reaps many of the benefits of this quadrennial spectacle. My essay offers an anatomy of the Olympic Movement (OM) through the five ways in which it has come to dominate global sport: through the International Olympic Committee as the apex of a transnational governance structure; through the OM management of the Olympic brand as the most lucrative in global sports; through Olympism as the OM’s philosophy of universal sports humanism; through OM’s power to define and defend multiple subjectivities—Olympic sports, Olympic genders, Olympic citizens, and Olympic bodies; and through the ability of the OM to orchestrate the rhythms of global sport through Olympic temporal regimes. It would appear from these powers that the OM is unassailable and unaccountable, yet the essay concludes by arguing that the OM is an example (perhaps a rare example) of how powerful interests can be made vulnerable to what we can call “rhetorical self-entrapment” and the revenge of unintended effects.

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The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics
Koide Hiroaki
Translation, with notes and references, by Norma Field

The Olympic games have always been used to display national might. In recent years, they have become tools for businesses, especially construction companies, which create, and then destroy, large public structures, leading to a colossally wasteful society from which they derive stupendous profit. What is important now is to give relief to those who continue to suffer from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and at the very least, to protect children, who are blameless, from exposure. Casting sidelong glances at the vast numbers of victims, the perpetrators, including TEPCO, government officials, scholars, and the media, have utterly failed to take responsibility.

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Promises of Accessibility for the Tokyo 2020 Games
Susan S. Lee

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are promising comprehensive changes to accessibility for all who will be attending, including athletes, coaches, spectators, volunteers and organizers. The promises of accessibility will have impact on disability sport, society and culture, and the economy. This article examines accessible design features for promotional materials, training venues, hotel accommodations and local transportation, followed by a report on the progress made towards the accessibility goals for the Tokyo 2020 Games

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Tokyo 2020: Public Cost and Private Benefit
Eva Marikova Leeds

The IOC’s myopic push for increasingly elaborate Olympics increased the size of the Olympics and raised the staging costs, which outpaced revenue and discouraged bidders. As the Olympics have become very costly mega events, only rich megacities like Tokyo can afford to host them. Advocates of the Olympics remain convinced that the Olympic expenditure is an investment that the city will ultimately recoup, but this is unlikely. For construction companies, however, the games are a bonanza.

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Can Cities Bring Home the Gold?:
What Economic Theory Tells Us about Hosting the Olympic Games
Michael A. Leeds  

The Tokyo Games have had mixed success on the compactness and sustainability fronts. The financial news, however, has been uniformly disappointing. Interest groups play a clear role in prompting governments to pursue the Olympics. While the population as a whole experiences little or no net benefit, specific groups, such as the local hospitality industry and construction unions, stand to gain a great deal. These groups spend heavily to elect politicians who support their pursuit of the Olympics.

Spinning the Rings: The Media and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
David McNeill

Abstract: Olympic organizers have used a mix of spin and patriotic arm-twisting to sell the 2020 Games in their attempt to rebrand Japan as open and multicultural. But another Japan - chauvinist and fretting about its place in a globalized world – keeps showing through.

Light, Currency, Spectacle, and War: Kobayashi Erika’s She Waited (2019)
Taro Nettleton

In 2020, spectacle reigns virtually unchecked. That the Japanese government would increase the acceptable level of annual radiation exposure from one to 20 mSv to quickly manufacture the semblance of recovery and declare Fukushima safe for the Olympic Games hauntingly corroborates Situationist Guy Debord’s argument that spectacle domination is the destruction of history. Against government decisions that count on historical amnesia, and against the spectacle’s unlimited capacity to absorb hyperbole, critical art today needs to avoid replicating or attempting to exaggerate the spectacular. An installation by Kobayashi Erika recently featured in the “Narratives in Contemporary Art” exhibition held at the National Art Center, Tokyo, is exemplary in this regard and provides a rare opportunity to think about the 2020 Olympic Games critically and historically.

As If Nothing Had Occurred:
Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure
Akihiro Ogawa

This paper argues the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has raised people’s awareness of concerns over radiation exposure as a form of social movement. One example is the Shinjuku demonstration, organized by the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation, which constantly advocates for protecting children from continuing radiation exposure. The group raised the issue that Olympic torch would pass through municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed. Furthermore, concerns over radiation exposure have been also generating a grassroots movement to create the Chernobyl Law in Japan. This paper documents the emerging movement across the country, led by the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice.

1940 Tokyo: The Olympiad that Never Was
Mark Schreiber

In 1936, after the Berlin Olympics concluded, Tokyo won the right to host the 1940 Olympics. The sequence of events that led to the 1940 games' forfeiture can be said to have begun on July 7, 1937, when Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge southwest of Beijing. The IOC's initial reaction was to transfer the 1940 games to Helsinki; but with Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, the ‘missing Olympics’ were cancelled for good.

Symbolic Transformation: The 1964 Tokyo Games Reconsidered
Christian Tagsold

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics facilitated Japan’s symbolic rebirth in the wake of World War II. Infrastructural projects like the Shinkansen were intentionally blended with remnants of ultra-nationalism into a new type of post-war patriotism. The games sanctioned Japan’s redemption and reinforced a sense of national purpose and collective identity while providing a stage for Emperor Hirohito’s rehabilitation. In subtle ways the Olympics created an opportunity to rebrand Japan as modern and cutting edge while also symbolically embracing a history and traditions that had been implicated and discredited by wartime depredations.

The Tokyo Paralympic Superhero:
Manga and Narratives of Disability in Japan
Anoma van der Veere

The Paralympic Games are founded on ideals of inclusivity and diversity for people with a disability. Consequently, there is an emphasis on athlete empowerment within the Paralympic Movement. One consistent criticism of the idea of athlete empowerment is that it relies on the concept of the ‘supercrip’, narratives of overcoming the tragedy of one’s disability through superhero-like qualities. The role of society is largely left out. This article shows that such narratives are prevalent in discourses surrounding the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games, specifically in popular culture products designed to promote the Paralympic Games. This is problematic because such narratives individualize disability, rather than address larger social issues that people with a disability face in Japan.

Did the 2016 Olympics change Rio de Janeiro?
Not Much - At Least Not for the Good
Stephen Wade

The International Olympic committee and local Olympic organizers promised that the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics would change the South American city. Almost all the promises were broken despite Brazil spending at least $13 billion to organize the games, with some estimates suggesting $20 billion. The Olympics turned into lucrative real estate deals for several billionaire developers. It did manage to drive the construction of a $3 billion metro-line extension, but estimates say it cost 25% more than it should have. Mostly the Rio games were scarred by scandals and left a city, starkly divided by rich and poor, pretty much as it was with a few cosmetic changes.

‘Tokyo and Olympics Guide’,
written by Sean Michael Wilson,
illustrated by Makiko Kodama,
published by Kodansha, bilingual edition, Dec 2019.
Sean Michael Wilson

In these excerpts from our manga ‘guidebook’ to the Olympics for foreign visitors we include some critical commentary, regarding both the 1964 and present Olympics. From breathless hyperbole to environmental destruction readers encounter graphic images of the games beyond the PR hype. Alas, changes thought necessary have damaged the physical and cultural ecology of Japan and there is aneed for greater social responsibility.