Connect with us

SPORTS

Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez Are Team USA’s Flag Bearers for Tokyo. Why That’s a Good Choice

Published

on

Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez Are Team USA’s Flag Bearers for Tokyo. Why That’s a Good Choice

[ad_1]

When American basketball star Sue Bird was growing up playing hoops in Long Island, New York, she had no WNBA pros to look up to. (The league started in 1997, when Bird was 16). All she had was the Olympics; when the 1996 U.S. women’s team won a gold medal in Atlanta, that seemed like the lone possible pinnacle of her sport.

In Tokyo, Bird will be making her fifth Olympic appearance: she is chasing a fifth gold medal, and winning it would make her and American teammate Diana Taurasi the first basketball players to ever win five basketball golds. “Every time I’m named to an Olympic team, because I’m chill and not screaming from the rooftops that I’ve made the team, people assume I’m not excited,” Bird told TIME in a June interview. She is. “It’s like that 15-year-gold who watched [former U.S. point guard] Jen Azzi and thought, Oh, we look alike, maybe that could be me one day. That’s the one, who on the inside, is getting named to the team. And she’s in disbelief every time.”
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

On Wednesday morning in the U.S., the Today Show announced that Bird and USA baseball player Eddy Alvarez—who has combined an Olympic short-track speed skating career with a baseball one—will carry the American flag at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 23. (Most countries will have a pair of flag bearers this year).

During a phone interview in Tokyo with TIME a few hours after she found out she was chosen, Bird said Taurasi, her former college teammate at the University of Connecticut, shared the news in front of the entire team at a practice. She was floored. “It’s impossible to put in perspective,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ve fully wrapped my head around it.” She informed finaceé, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, about the news. Rapinoe told Bird she was incredibly proud. “Sadly they’re losing 1-0 right now,” she said—Sweden would go on to shock the U.S. women’s soccer team, 3-0, in the Olympic opener.

Michael Phelps was flag bearer for the U.S. at the Rio Opening Ceremony; the last women’s basketball player to take on hat role during a Summer Olympics opening ceremony was Dawn Staley, in Athens in 2004; she’s now the Team USA coach. One of Bird’s fondest Olympic memories is trailing behind Staley, near the front, at those Games. She asked her coach for flag-bearing advice. “Dawn said it’s not as heavy as it looks,” says Bird. “I think I’ll be all right.”

No baseball player has ever carried the U.S. flag in the Opening Ceremony; the sport returned to the Games at the request of Japan, a country with storied baseball history, after being absent in 2012 and 2016.

Read more: ‘Unapologetic and Unafraid.’ Sue Bird Stares Down Olympic Glory in Tokyo and Equity Off the Court

Since the Rio Olympics, the relationship between sports and the American flag has grown, well, complicated. A few weeks after those Games, Colin Kaepernick began sitting, and then kneeling, during the National Anthem to protest police violence, igniting a divisive dialogue in which most Americans took clear sides: people viewed that act, and subsequent sports demonstrations, as either immensely disrespectful or brave expressions of free speech.

The latest controversy between the flag and Olympic sports came at the U.S. Track and Field trials in June, when American hammer thrower Gwen Berry turned away from the flag, on the medals podium, during the playing of the National Anthem. She faced intense criticism, particularly from conservatives, and refused to back down. “I feel like in order for me to respect a song that sings about liberty and justice for us all, I have to actually see that and experience it,” Berry told TIME in July. (Berry won’t be at the Opening Ceremonies; track and field starts on July 30, and because of the pandemic, Berry and other track and field Olympians arrive next week.)

In choosing Bird, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee may at least be giving a tacit nod to the appropriateness of political activism in sports. Last summer Bird and her fellow WNBA players rallied around Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, after an incumbent Republican Senator and Atlanta Dream team co-owner, Kelly Loeffler, criticized the league’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bird came up with the idea that players wear “Vote Warnock” T-shirts to raise the Democrat’s profile. Warnock beat Loeffler in a January runoff election, a win that carried enormous consequences, as it ultimately flipped the Senate to the Democrats. Loeffler sold her stake in the WNBA team.

“To be selected to lead the delegation, and lead athletes into the Games, that speaks to a career, a body of work,” Bird tells TIME. “The other side of it is, yeah, there are plenty of things I’ve spoken about. There’s things that I know our team stands for, there are things that a lot of U.S. athletes stand for, and want changed. And we’re also going to represent that, holding that flag.”

Bird publicly revealed she was gay in 2017; she also senses how crucial her selection will be to the LGTBQ community. “The fact that you have an openly gay athletes representing the country, that’s where we are,” says Bird. “Talking about these issues, where it’s racial, LGTBQ issues, putting these things at the forefront. Because that’s what we’re working for, is a better America.”

At her first Olympics in Athens in 2004, Bird was a little-used reserve who spent ample time partying a night club on a docked cruise ship where the team was staying; now, she’s the veteran leader and point guard, the WNBA’s all-time assists leader already with four gold medals, and four WNBA championships, to her name.

Alvarez’s body of work—a combination of speed skating and baseball is just plain wild. Wild enough to make him worthy of opening ceremonies recognition. The son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez grew up in Miami; he started roller skating at age 5 and turned to the ice a few years later. He was soon known as “Eddy the Jet.” In high school he quit skating for three years to concentrate on baseball. At Salt Lake Community College, he played baseball and trained for short track at the speed skating facility there. But after knee surgery he decided to try to make the 2014 Olympic team roster. He won silver in the 5000-m relay in Sochi.

But he was far from done with baseball: after toiling in the minors for six seasons, Alvarez made his major league debut last year with the Miami Marlins. He’s been back in the minors this season, but an Olympic medal would make him only the third American, following Eddie Egan (boxing and bobsled) and Lauryn Williams (track and field and bobsled), to medal in both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm these Games: at least 70 people accredited for the Olympics have tested positive, including two South African soccer players, a Czech beach volleyball player and an alternate on the American gymnastics team. The pandemic can wipe out a potential once-in-a-lifetime Olympic opportunity in an instant: a positive test prevented American Katie Lou Samuelson, who’s fully vaccinated, from competing in the first-ever Olympic 3-on-3 basketball competition. On Instagram, she wrote that she was “devastated.” Who wouldn’t be?

So much has already gone wrong at these Olympics. But Bird and Alvarez waving the flag at the Opening ceremonies: It’ll be nice to see something so right.

Read more about the Tokyo Olympics:



[ad_2]

Source link

Advertisement
Click to comment

SPORTS

Singapore Eliminated from AFF Suzuki Cup After Loss to Indonesia

Published

on

Singapore Eliminated from AFF Suzuki Cup After Loss to Indonesia
Singapore's Nur Adam Abdullah slides in to stop the ball from getting to Indonesia's Asnawi Mangkualam during their sides' AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semi-final second leg match at the National Stadium in Singapore on Dec 25, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Matthew Mohan)

On the pitch at the National Stadium on Saturday (Dec 25), they fought like lions.

Backs against the wall, in the face of several questionable refereeing decisions, Singapore stared into the abyss of a loss.

Yet they battled – clearing shots off the line, defending stoutly, throwing bodies around.

Then came heartbreak in extra time, courtesy of two Indonesian goals, which meant that Tatsuma Yoshida’s side were eliminated from the AFF Suzuki Cup on Saturday (Dec 25) after a 4-2 loss to Indonesia in the second leg of the semi-final.

Extra-time strikes from Irfan Jaya via a Shawal Anuar touch and Egy Maulana Vikri gave the away side a 5-3 aggregate victory and ensured that the search for the Lions’ first Suzuki Cup title since 2012 would go on.

Showing “Singapore spirit” was how Yoshida described his team’s performance after the game.

“They showed the best performance since I came to Singapore … I feel happy working with my boys and I am proud of all of them,” he said.

“I was moved by their fighting spirit, their Singapore spirit and they didn’t give up.”

The Lions’ first leg match on Wednesday had ended 1-1 as an Ikhsan Fandi equaliser pegged back the Indonesians.

However, with Yoshida making several changes, Ikhsan started the game on the bench, with a different-looking Singapore side for the second leg.

In his place was Geylang International striker Amy Recha, making his first Singapore start. Faris Ramli was also dropped to the bench, with Hafiz Nor starting for the Lions.

It was the Indonesians who took the lead in the 11th minute, as a Hassan Sunny pass was intercepted by Witan. He brushed off two defenders and found Ezra Walian for the opener.

Four minutes later, they almost doubled their lead but Pratama Arhan could only curl his effort over.

Singapore struggled to find their foot in the game, with a series of misplaced passes handing the momentum to the ever-pressing Indonesia team on a number of occasions.

The Lions’ best chance came courtesy of a lung-busting run from Song Ui-young, who found Hafiz Nor, but his shot was parried wide.

Amy Recha then looked to have been brought down in the box when he was about to latch onto the rebound but vehement appeals from Singapore were waved away.

Then came a flashpoint. Defender Safuwan Baharudin, who was shown a soft yellow card earlier by referee Qasim Matar Ali Al Hatmi, was booked again and sent off after a tussle in the box before a corner kick was taken.

But the Lions held their nerve and drew level, with Song firing home in the first half added time to the delight of Singapore fans.

Indonesia piled on the pressure in the second half and had a shot rebound off the bar in the 59th minute.

Yoshida threw caution to the wind with a triple substitution, bringing on Ikhsan, Faris and Shawal Anuar.

And it was Shawal who almost made an instant impact a minute after coming on, but his dipping shot drifted just wide.

Singapore defender Irfan Fandi received his marching orders in the 67th minute, after he hauled down Irfan Jaya as he ran towards goal. The referee deemed him to have denied the forward a clear goalscoring opportunity.

But shortly after, Singapore midfielder Shahdan thought he had turned game winner as he curled a gorgeous free kick past the Indonesian keeper to put nine-man Singapore ahead.

But Indonesia were not done yet, and they grabbed an equaliser with four minutes to spare, courtesy of Pratama.

With the game on the line, Faris had the chance to seal a famous win, but his penalty was pushed away by Indonesian keeper Nadeo Winata.

Then came the clincher for the Indonesians with just a minute played in extra time. As Irfan Jaya tried to force the ball across the line, it inadvertently rebounded off Shawal into goal.

Indonesia almost extended their lead on several occasions, if not for the excellent work of Singapore keeper Hassan Sunny, who was one of the many players who were immense for the Lions.

Substitute Egy then doubled the Indonesians’ lead just before the end of the first half of extra time to seal the victory.

Hassan received his marching orders with time ticking down as the Lions went down to eight men.

Speaking after the match, Yoshida said: “The referee is the referee. (If) they say (it’s a) foul, it’s a foul. (If) they say (it’s a) red card, (it’s a) red card.

“We have to accept it, it’s football.”

And it is Yoshida’s hope that the fans will believe in the team, and the players in themselves.

“I always tell the boys, my staff. You must believe (in) yourself. You can do it … Singapore fans I hope, I want them to support the boys and Singapore football.”

Despite the loss, the crowd’s appreciation for the crestfallen team at the full-time whistle said it all.

Singapore may have fallen to a defeat, but on a pulsating Christmas night at the National Stadium, they roared. CNA

Continue Reading

SPORTS

Motor racing-Mercedes to leave Formula E after 2022

Published

on

Motor racing-Mercedes to leave Formula E after 2022

Formula E champions Mercedes will withdraw from the all-electric series at the end of the Gen2 era in 2022 to concentrate on Formula One, the carmaker said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes three days after Dutch driver Nyck de Vries won the Formula E world championship title after finishing eighth in the season’s final race in Berlin, with Mercedes also winning the teams’ title after Stoffel Vandoorne’s third place.

“Mercedes-Benz today announced that it will conclude its ABB FIA Formula E success story as a team entrant and manufacturer at the end of Season 8, in August 2022,” the manufacturer said in a statement https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/eq-formulae/we-race-the-city/team/team-news/concluding-formula-e-success-story.

“Moving forward, the company will concentrate its works motorsport activities on Formula 1, reinforcing the sport’s status as the fastest laboratory for developing and proving sustainable and scalable future performance technologies.”

In December, German manufacturers Audi and BMW confirmed they would exit Formula E at the end of this year.

Mercedes announced a new strategic direction for its brand in July, with the aim of going all-electric by the end of the decade.

“As part of the new strategic direction, the brand has deliberately chosen to shift resources for this accelerated ramp-up of electrification, including the development of three electric-only architectures to be launched in 2025,” the carmaker said.

“Therefore, Mercedes will reallocate resource away from its ABB FIA Formula E World Championship programme and towards applying the lessons learned in competition to product development in series.” REUTERS

Continue Reading

SPORTS

Tokyo Hands Olympic Baton to Beijing but Virus and Boycott Calls Weigh

Published

on

Tokyo Hands Olympic Baton to Beijing but Virus and Boycott Calls Weigh
Journalists watch a light show at the National Ski Jumping Center for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, in northern China’s Hebei province, in July. | AFP-JIJI
The focus immediately shifts to Beijing as the curtain falls on the Tokyo Olympics, with a growing coronavirus outbreak in China and boycott calls looming large just six months from the start of the Winter Games.
The Beijing 2022 Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 4 to 20, when the Chinese capital will become the first city to host a Winter and Summer Games.
New venues have been constructed and some from Beijing 2008, including the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium, are being spruced up as China attempts to show the world its best face. The 2022 Games will be spread over three main zones Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, which is about 180 kilometers (110 miles) northwest of the capital.
A high-speed train will connect the three hubs. All competition venues were completed several months ago and the Chinese government has been keen to assert that preparations have successfully ploughed on despite the coronavirus pandemic.
But just as Beijing 2022 swings into view, China is now facing its largest virus outbreak in months, even if infection numbers are still low compared with many other countries. Another headache for the Beijing Olympics and China’s ruling Communist Party is sustained calls from activists, the Uyghur diaspora and some Western politicians for a boycott over the country’s rights record, especially the fate of Muslim minorities.
China, where Covid-19 emerged towards the end of 2019, already had some of the world’s strictest containment measures and is ramping them up further in the capital. People flying into China from abroad must quarantine for between two and three weeks in a hotel, and it is unclear if the thousands of athletes, team officials, media and others coming to the Games will have to do likewise.
Tokyo model?
Bo Li, assistant professor of sports management at Miami University in Ohio, said Beijing 2022 organizers should take their cue from Tokyo in handling the virus threat. There were concerns there would be mass infections among participants in Japan but while there have been cases, the worst fears have not materialized.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and local organizers insisted on testing everyone involved before and regularly during the Games, and keeping athletes away from the public. Spectators have also been barred from most events at Tokyo 2020 it is unclear whether Beijing 2022 will follow suit. “Overall the strategy that has been used by Tokyo has been pretty successful and I think Beijing will duplicate something very similar,” said Bo Li, adding that he was “curious” about what China would do with its current strict quarantine procedures.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the athletes to arrive in Beijing (at least) two weeks in advance and to be quarantined,” he said. “From the financial point of view, who would pay the bill? The organizing committee? The IOC? “The preparation of the athletes would be greatly affected, it would be unacceptable to most of them.”
Unanswered questions
The United States says Beijing is carrying out a genocide against Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang and experts estimate more than one million people have been incarcerated in detention camps. Beijing denies genocide and has described the camps as vocational training centers.
Yaqiu Wang, a New-York based China researcher for Human Rights Watch, stopped short of calling for a full boycott: “Athletes have been preparing their whole lives to have this moment, so taking that moment away is wrong. “Athletes can still go, but sponsors, international dignitaries, celebrities, we think they should not go to lend legitimacy to the Chinese government hosting the Games.”
Mark Dreyer, a China sports analyst, said that many questions remain unanswered about the Winter Games, even with fewer than 200 days to go.
“Ticketing plans haven’t been released. And do we know about spectators? It’s looking likely there are not going be international spectators allowed, but what about domestic spectators?” asked Beijing-based Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insider website.
“All this sort of stuff, normally it takes years to plan and there are still test events supposedly happening between now and the Games. “Will those happen? Will they provide us any additional information in terms of how China plans to run the real thing?”- AFP

Continue Reading

SPORTS

American Nelly Korda wins gold in women’s golf as Japan’s Mone Inami takes silver

Published

on

American Nelly Korda wins gold in women’s golf as Japan’s Mone Inami takes silver
Nelly Korda of the U.S. watches her drive from the 8th tee during her final round of the Olympic women's golf tournament. | AFP-JIJI

Japan’s Mone Inami came up a stroke short in her bid to win gold on home soil, finishing a shot back of world No. 1 Nelly Korda of the U.S. in the final round of the women’s golf tournament on Saturday at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Inami defeated New Zealand’s Lydia Ko in a playoff to claim silver.

Inami fired a stellar six-under 65 in the final round to put herself in contention, but Korda, the overnight leader, was steady throughout and finished with a 69 in her final round. Inami wavered on the final hole, coming home with a bogey to end on 16-under. Korda, playing in the group behind her, made par to secure the gold medal at 17-under.

In the playoff, Inami made par on the 18th hole and watched as Ko’s par save slipped just past the hole.

India’s Aditi Ashok, the world No. 200, was a surprise fourth-place finisher.

Mone Inami of Japan during her final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture | REUTERS
Mone Inami of Japan during her final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture | REUTERS

Source Link

 

Continue Reading

SPORTS

The ‘Nolympians’ giving the IOC a run for its money

Published

on

The ‘Nolympians’ giving the IOC a run for its money
Japanese have been lukewarm about the pandemic-hit Tokyo Games, holding demonstrations during the event itself. The black-shirted protester’s placard reads ‘Anti-Olympics’ [Kantaro Komiya/AP Photo]

Long before Tokyo 2020 was saddled with cost overruns, scandals over sexism and fears it would turn into a COVID-19 super-spreader event, anti-Olympics activists were already calling the whole thing a disaster.

That was why one year before the pandemic-hit Games were originally slated to open in late July 2020, anti-Olympic activists convened in Japan for the first ever global summit of “NOlympians”, as those opposed to the Games are known.

The pow-wow of NOlympians signalled that once ad hoc localised opposition to Olympic events had gone global.

“We shouldn’t see the anti-[Olympics] movements [as] being isolated and divided according to nations and cities,” said Hiroki Ogasawara, a professor in sociology and cultural studies at Japan’s Kobe University, “because the protest is already worldwide and the Olympics inevitably involve global scale wrongdoings, too.”

Dozens of activists from host cities past (London, Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang, South Korea) and future (Paris and Los Angeles) were joined in the Japanese capital by those bracing for a bid by their cities, including Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

“That was a pivotal moment,” Jules Boykoff, a participant and professor of politics and government at Pacific University in Oregon in the United States told Al Jazeera. What Boykoff previously called “a moment of movements” had blossomed into a transnational coalition with staying power.

Boykoff, an Olympian turned critic, says that because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is “a multibillion-dollar behemoth” those opposed to it have realised, “the only way to fight is to become more mobile with their dissent”.

Japan has held four Olympic events in 50 years, the most of any Asian country despite strong opposition because of the cost and their social and environmental impacts [File: Robert F Butaky/AP Photo]

Founded in 1894, the IOC is a non-profit that serves as the governing body of Olympics committees in each of its member countries with a mission to distribute the billions in revenue from broadcasting and marketing to sports development. Its executive board is formed of members drawn from the global business elite.

‘Olympic Disasters’

In Asia, Japan has hosted the most Olympic events – the Games that kicked off on July 23 were its fourth in 50 years.

While the 1964 Games have generally been portrayed positively – a showcase of the technological prowess and design brilliance of post-war Japan and its debut on the world stage – not everyone holds such a rosy view of later Olympics.

Of the two main anti-Games groups spawned by Tokyo 2020, one is called Okotowa Link, which means “Olympic Disasters”.

The Japanese activists had a litany of concerns concerning the event from the demolition of affordable housing to the removal of street sleepers and the transformation of the world-famous Tsukiji fish market into a parking lot for the National Stadium.

In an era where activism is increasingly global and finding momentum online – from the #MeToo movement to Fridays for Future and Black Lives Matter – it is hard to recall the days when grassroots organising spread one leaflet at a time.

That was how Helen Jefferson Lenskyj and her fellow activists at Bread Not Circuses got their start in the late 1980s when Toronto vied first for the 1996 Games and then for the 2008 event. While her city’s repeated bids called for a sustained campaign, Lenskyj notes how the anti-Olympics movement has since grown.

“It’s definitely gathered strength,” said Lenskyj, now professor emerita of social justice education at the University of Toronto. “With social media and more effective use of the internet, the growing problem of huge debts and expensive venues, the legacy that never materialised, there’s growing disillusionment.”

The Canadian anti-Games activists were the first to launch the Poverty Olympics Torch Relay, in which the torch is fashioned from a toilet plunger. And an annual NOlympics day was marked every late June to galvanise opposition worldwide.

There were protests against the Summer Games when they were held in Greece in 2004 with demonstrators concerned about security measures [File: Louisa Gouliamaki/EPA]

The Games’ human costs, including the massive disruption to the lives of residents and heightened police surveillance, stand in stark contrast with the corporate interests of the Olympics boosters. Typically, they are the business and political elites who have the most to gain from brand sponsorships, white-elephant building projects and lucrative service contracts.

“I call this trickle-up economics,” said Boykoff. “It’s a massive economic juggernaut; the sports are incidental.”

‘Soft power’

Over the past few years, citizens have become increasingly resistant to hosting the sporting extravaganza, with some Western countries putting the decision to voters in a referendum.

One by one, potential bid cities have been eliminated by “no” votes from Boston in the US to Krakow in Poland.

In 2015, in the leadup to the IOC awarding the 2022 Winter Games, only two candidate cities were left standing: Almaty and Beijing.

Authoritarian countries have long seen the Games as a form of “soft power”, while the IOC has sought to frame the event as a force for good that transcends politics.

In 2001, when Beijing was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics despite concerns over China’s human rights record, the IOC claimed hosting would help usher in an era of greater freedom.

Seven years later, artist Ai Weiwei, the man who had helped design the centrepiece Bird’s Nest stadium, was persecuted by authorities for his political activism, and Beijing won its bid for the 2022 Winter Games three weeks after a nationwide round-up of human rights lawyers and their staff.

With less than seven months to go, Beijing’s mass imprisonment of Uighur Muslims and its crackdown in Hong Kong are fuelling calls from Europe and North America for a boycott.

Meanwhile, the dwindling number of cities prepared to bid for the event has spurred the IOC to act. Its Agenda 2020 called for transparency, sustainability and flexibility. Critics, however, say the organisation is incapable of genuine reform.

“The IOC has a democratic deficit,” said Boykoff, adding that it was ruled “with an iron fist.”

China celebrates being awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics, but there are calls for a boycott in response to the crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]

In response to the rising NOlympics backlash, the IOC has accelerated the process for naming host cities.

In an unprecedented move in 2017, it doled out a twin award to the remaining candidates: giving the 2024 Summer Games to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles.

And just before the Tokyo Olympics got under way, the IOC announced the host for 2032 – Brisbane in Australia, the only contender. Previously, the host city was selected only seven years before the Games were due to start.

For now, activists’ rallying cry of “NOlympics anywhere” may seem a long shot, but as the memory of two weeks of sporting spectacle begins to fade and Tokyo assesses the Games’ longer-term effect, it seems likely the rumblings of discontent that follow the IOC will only grow – as will the movement.

“The anti-Olympics campaign has a significant impact in raising local residents’ consciousness on what human rights will be violated and what they would have to suffer to have the Olympics,” Lenskyj said.

This post first appeared on Aljazeera.com

Continue Reading

SPORTS

Welcome to Tokyo’s five-ring Olympic circus

Published

on

Welcome to Tokyo’s five-ring Olympic circus

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics have been plagued by defiled graves, bribes, lies, outbreaks of Covid-19, colossal mistakes and mysterious deaths.

At the massively expensive Olympic Stadium, when they light the Olympic flame on Friday night, reflect on one thing. The architects originally forgot to put a place for the stand in their designs, which wasn’t noticed until 2016.

Even the opening ceremonies have been a fiasco before they started. The original music composer had to resign after his history of gleefully torturing the disabled became an issue. The former comedian turned director of the pre-game show was fired because of his past Holocaust jokes.

There are reports that the new music will be provided by an ultra-nationalist composer who denies the existence of comfort women and the Nanjing Massacre. That may not go over well with Japan’s neighbors.

It seems like the games are cursed – and former Prime Minister Taro Aso has said so publicly. If something can go wrong it will. Is it supernatural bad luck or just the karma of the organizers?

At Asia Times we’ve decided to chronicle the series of unfortunate events that led us up to this day of days, not necessarily in chronological order, but in a way that you can meditate on the mandala of misfortune that is the Tokyo 2020 Five-Ring Circus. Can things get better?

Will the opening of the Olympics be prying open an already damaged Pandora’s Box or will it somehow release “fighting spirit” to save the day?

The Big Lie (2013)

Shortly, after taking office in 2012,  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his second time at bat, began pushing to have Tokyo host the 2020 Olympics.  Naoki Inose, the governor of Tokyo, had his back.

People protest against the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics on July 23 in Tokyo. Photo: AFP / David Mareuil / Anadolu Agency

At a September general meeting of the International Olympic Committee, Abe made a bold appeal to host the games. When concerns were raised about the Fukushima nuclear meltdown that had happened less than two years earlier, Abe confidently said, “Fukushima is under control.”

It wasn’t and it isn’t now. In two years, Japan will start dumping radioactive water that has been piling up on site into our oceans. The clean-up will take decades.

The bribes (2013)

It wasn’t until 2019, that it was reported that French prosecutors have investigated the head of the Japan Olympic Committee, for bribing former members of the IOC. At least two million dollars was allegedly spent buying off former IOC officials so that they lobbied African nations to vote for Japan’s 2013 Olympic bid.

Reuters later reports that even more millions were spent currying favor and paid out to a former executive of Dentsu, Japan’s incredibly powerful advertising agency.

Speaking of bribes, Tokyo Governor Inose, who helped secure the Olympics, was forced to step down after being accused of accepting a 50,000,000 yen ($450,000) contribution from a medical consortium.  Just like Abe, he wouldn’t survive in office long enough to boast about the success of the Games.

Skeletons in the closet (2013)

In November of 2019, it was finally reported that 187 human bodies had been excavated between 2013 and 2015 from the construction site of Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium. The bad news (and the bones) had been covered up for years.

Apparently, the Olympic organizers had built over an Edo era cemetery. Did anyone do the proper Buddhist rituals to quell the spirits of the dead? Nobody knows.

Shinzo Abe promised that the Fukushima nuclear accident was under control. Photo: AFP / Kunihiko Miura / The Yomiuri Shimbun

Like the movie Poltergeist, are the angry ghosts of the displaced now cursing the games? We know that many who were evicted from their apartments in the area to make room for the stadium are cursing the Games, but they’re still alive.

Plagiarism (2015)

The Olympic emblem created by an elite former advertising agency man turns out to be a rip-off of a Belgian theatre emblem. With much haste, a new Olympics emblem had to be resigned.

When the in-house newspaper of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan later did a parody of the emblem, which likened it to the Covid-19 virus structure, the Japan Olympic Committee forced them to pulp the magazines.

It’s a curse to have no sense of humor.

Back to the drawing board (2015)

In July, The Olympic Stadium plans of famous female architect, Zaha Adid, were rejected as the building costs ostensibly were out of control. In reality, it’s probably because the architect was not Japanese, and she was a woman. A famous Japanese male architect was chosen to do the design, which some have said, resembles a rip-off of Zaha Hadid’s design.

Everybody dies (2013-2021)

The architect Hadid did not take kindly to her design being rejected and went to court with the Japan Sports Council.  But while the courtroom battle was waging, she suddenly died in the spring of 2016.  Hers wasn’t the last death.

As the fever pace to complete the stadium mounted, in March of 2017,  a freshly hired construction company employee, 23, killed himself after mental and physical exhaustion in a horrifying case of “Karoshi” – death by overwork. He logged 190 hours of overtime in a 30-day period before his death.

Empty stands are seen behind the stage and the Tokyo 2020 emblem ahead of the opening ceremony. Photo: AFP / Franck Fife

In May of 2020, the 54-year old owner of a fried pork cutlets restaurant, who was scheduled to be one of the Olympic Torch Relay runners, torched himself to death. Due to Covid-19, the Olympics had been postponed, he had to close down his shop and was in deep despair.

In June of 2021, an accountant for the Japan Olympic Committee killed himself by jumping in front of a train on the Asakusa line. Did he know something about the bribes? People began asking, will the accounting ledgers for the Tokyo Olympics be burned, like they were for the Nagano Winter Olympics?

The Japanese media has politely not followed the story. The Japan Olympic Committee refuses to discuss it.

Smells worse than fishy (2017-2021)

In 2017, the swimming area set aside for the triathlon near Odaiba was found to be polluted with fecal matter and not safe to swim in. It turns out that in times of heavy rain, the sewage system overflows into the pool area. The problem is allegedly fixed but the New York Post and the Korean Press have been reporting, “The area smells like a sewer” – even now.

The coronavirus outbreak was a curse for the world, but the government of Japan, desperate to hold the Olympics, downplayed the virus, under-tested and was slow to take action. Even in early March of 2020, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, said, “It’s inconceivable that we don’t hold the Olympics this year.”

The day after the Olympics were postponed, the number of Covid-19 cases in Tokyo mysteriously surged and Koike discussed having a lockdown and the “Covid-19 infection explosion.”

Japan, eager to put on a good face and host the Games no matter what, has haphazardly handled the virus, which has resulted in more than 15,000 deaths now, the worst in East Asia.

In contrast, Korea has had a little over 2,000 deaths. Vietnam, which has a population of 95 million (Japan 126 million) has only  had 370 deaths.

Kyoko Ishikawa, who has attended every Summer Olympics in the past 30 years, expresses her gratitude as Japan’s Air Self Defense Force aerobatic team forms the Olympic rings in the skies over Tokyo on July 23. Photo: AFP / Yasuyoshi Chiba

Despite warnings, and even a scolding from the Emperor, the “safe and secure” Games are going forward, even while outbreaks continue in the Olympic Village and Tokyo hospital beds are now in short supply.

The army of the unlucky

It’s hard to keep track of all those involved in the Olympics who have been fired or forced to resign from their jobs since Japan won the bid, but here’s a partial list with their misdeeds. However, some of these unfortunate souls may still be haunting the Games.

Yoshiro Mori, former prime minister, head of the Tokyo Olympic Committee (sexist remarks)

Keigo Oyamada, original composer for the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremonies (abusing disabled children in the past)

Shinzo Abe, now honorary advisor to the Olympics (resigned as PM ostensibly because of stomach problems, but was also under investigation for election law violations)

Hiroshi Sasaki, former Olympics creative director (planning an opening ceremony skit that would ridicule obese people)

Tsunekazu Takeda, former president of The Japan Olympic Committee (allegations of giving bribes and corruption)

Most expensive summer Games

The price of hosting the Olympics and Paralympics has astronomically increased from 734 billion yen ($6.67 billion) when the bid was made.  Last December, the  Japanese government estimated it will cost about $154 billion.

Olympic rowers train at Sea Forest Waterway, in Tokyo. Photo: AFP / Vladimir Pesnya / Sputnik

That’s a huge cost overrun. Part of the high costs might have come from a vice-president of the Japan Olympic Committee having reported ties to the largest yakuza group in Japan, but who really knows?

The cost to Japan’s public image from these mishandled Games is probably incalculable.

Too damn hot

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that “Hell is other people” and in a Covid-19 infested Tokyo, that rings truer than ever but it’s also true that Tokyo summers feel like being in an inferno.

If “Fukushima is under control” was the biggest lie told by Japan in this decade, the second can be found in Tokyo’s original bid for the 2020 Games. They claimed July 24 to August 9 is a great time for sports “With many days of mild and sunny weather, this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best.”

Anyone who lives here knows this isn’t true. With a heat index of 101 degrees and thousands hospitalized with heat-stroke each summer, Tokyo summers are not ideal for anything. That’s why the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held in October.

By 2019, Tokyo had to sort of admit it had lied and began trying out a coating on the marathon roads to reduce the heat. In August, it was reported that it had a reverse effect, making the temperatures rise 2.6 degrees celsius at 150 centimeters above the ground, and increasing damage from UV rays. The IOC later ignored Tokyo Governor Koike and moved the marathon to northern Japan’s Sapporo City.

In these “cursed” Olympics,  athletes and participants face the double-threat of Covid-19 infections and/or heat-stroke.

Let the Games begin.

Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Recent Posts

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Other Articles

close