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The bitter legacy in Japan of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The bitter legacy in Japan of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

While Paris prepares to celebrate Olympic Games, Japan keep trying to digest those of Tokyo-2020, undermined by scandals that could have long-term damaged the country’s interest in hosting Olympic events.

Cost overruns, concerns linked to Covid, corruption and sexism scandals… numerous controversies have tarnished the Japanese people’s memory of their Games, which took place largely behind closed doors in 2021, a year later than planned.

That gloomy atmosphere ended up destroying Japan’s desire to organize the Winter Olympic Games: the candidacy of Sapporo (in the north of the country) for 2030 had to be first postponed to 2034 due to a lack of public support and finally completely scrapped in December. .

That despite the fact that “The Japanese like the Olympic Games” and they had high hopes for Tokyo 2020, Kaori Yamaguchi, a former judo world champion who was a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) for ten years, recalls to AFP.

But between expectations and reality, a gap has opened, he says.

“People enjoyed watching the sports competitions, but they had a negative impression towards the organization and management of the event”according to the former judoka, who won the bronze medal at the Seoul Games in 1988.

“It was as if there was a wall that everything bounced off: the observations people made were ignored or went nowhere.”

Responsible people disconnected from reality

The final cost of the Tokyo Olympics reached more than 12 billion euros, almost double the initial estimate. And, due to the pandemic that was still impacting daily life in 2021, many Japanese wanted a new postponement or even cancellation of the mega-event.

Their anger was mainly directed towards the organization, which they considered disconnected from reality. The event itself went off without major problems, amid strict anti-virus measures that included banning spectators at most venues.

But as soon as the Games ended, several scandals exploded, which made the front pages of the Japanese media and ended up destroying the memory of the event.

Several managers and company heads were convicted in cases of bribery or rigged public tenders.

With popularity plummeting as a result of his management of the health crisis and his insistence on maintaining the Tokyo Games, the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, Yoshihide Suga, left power a few weeks after the Paralympics.

“Even if the pandemic had not occurred, the lack of honesty, inappropriate statements from senior officials and cost overruns would still have occurred,” according to Hirokazu Arai, a professor specialized in sports psychology.

Disinterest towards Paris-2024

The city of Nagoya (central Japan) will host the 2026 Asian Games, but this decision had been made in 2016, long before the Tokyo Games.

It will be necessary “a certain time” before Japanese public opinion once again supports an Olympic candidacy in the archipelago, thinks former judoka Kaori Yamaguchi.

“The modern Olympic Games have more than a hundred years of history, but if you can’t explain what they are for, people will think that it is just an event like any other that costs money”Add.

Arai even assesses that now there is “less interest” in Japan for the Olympic Games, just over two months before the Paris opening ceremony on the Seine.

“Normally, there should be a lot of news” about Paris-2024 in the Japanese media“but I don’t get the impression that that’s the case,” says.

Yamaguchi hopes that the positive legacy of the Tokyo Games will be clearly revealed “in 10 or 20 years,” when the current generation of children has grown up.

“The Organization Committee started the topic of inclusion and diversity, and the Paralympic athletes visited numerous schools”he highlights.

So “There were negative things, but also positive things that have planted seeds that can flourish in the future”wait.

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Source: Gestion

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