(ORDO NEWS) — Not a single Olympic tournament, with the exception of wartime, has faced such serious issues as the current one writes Advance, Croatia. I tried covid-19. Plus, the games have been rife with nationalism, commercialism, and political maneuvering in recent years. What is the message of the Olympics today?
Thousands of athletes, journalists and spectators came to the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm on 6 July 1912 to watch the grand opening of the Olympic Games. The successful, according to eyewitnesses, the Olympic Games in Stockholm justified the hopes of the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. When the games ended just over two weeks later, on July 22, 1912, Coubertin raised a toast to the next match, which was scheduled to take place in 1916 in Berlin. “Let the fruitful preparation for them be conducted in peacetime. Let them, when that very day comes, glorify all the peoples of the world in joy and harmony!”
As you know, Coubertin’s wishes were not destined to come true. By 1916, the First World War had already rolled through most of Europe. As a result, the German authorities abandoned the Berlin Games in 1916, making the 1912 Olympic Games even more special. These were the first games, after which the next did not take place (the games in Berlin in 1936 and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 are the only ones with the same status).
The Olympic Games are based on the unity of two opposing forces: nationalism and internationalism. As historian Richard Mundell wrote, according to Coubertin’s quasi-religious theory, which underlies the International Olympic Committee, “a mixture of patriotism and rivalry will make the universal world a better place.” The 1912 Games were no exception, with competing nations recognizing their enormous potential to demonstrate national power in the international arena.
The Olympics were attended not only by numerous foreign spectators, but also by a huge number of representatives of the international press. If in 1896 there were only 11 of them in Athens, but in 1912, 444 arrived in Stockholm.
With the exception of wartime, probably no other Olympic tournament has faced such serious questions as the current one. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 were postponed for a year, and recently they finally kicked off in the Japanese capital for the first time in 57 years.
The newly built Japanese National Stadium was free of crowds and loud applause for the athletes who gathered in Tokyo from all over the world and attended the opening ceremony. To prevent the spread of coronavirus infection, a system of “bubbles” has been introduced, when athletes move between the Olympic village and the competition venues along certain paths. This is an unprecedented tournament in which athletes are isolated from the host.
In recent years, games have been rife with nationalism and commercialism. This year, the coronavirus pandemic has robbed the Olympics of the festival’s gloss and revealed its true nature. American political scientist and author Jules Boykoff called the situation around the Olympic Games “a holiday of capitalism.” Governments and companies are investing huge sums in such celebrations, expecting future profits from them. The Olympic Games are the epitome of this approach. The Japanese government intended to make the Tokyo Olympics proposal a national project, and if all the associated costs are taken into account, more than $ 27 billion has been spent on the Tokyo Games so far.
The National Stadium, which was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, could have been used this time, but it was broken and a new one was built. New facilities were built one after another in the coastal areas of the Japanese capital. In addition to the 14 “global partners” who sponsor the games, Japan has 67 sponsoring companies. Major American media conglomerate NBCUniversal Media LLC has signed a broadcast rights agreement with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast ten Olympic Games through the 2032 Summer Olympics and predicts nearly $ 12.03 billion in revenue. From this money, among other things, financial assistance will be provided to the International Olympic Committee.
Japanese citizens are concerned about hosting the Olympics during a pandemic, and at some point, up to 80% of Japanese people wanted the games to be postponed again or not at all. However, the International Olympic Committee insisted on holding the competition, causing public outrage. The organizing committee of the games is bound by a strict contract for a large-scale event, and therefore the management hesitated. We see the main confirmation of this in the decision to hold the competition without spectators, which was made just a few days before the start of these Olympic Games.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin foresaw the coming crisis. In a speech he gave in 1925, he said the following: “Bazaar or temple: athletes must decide for themselves. You cannot expect to have both. ” The “bazaar” he mentioned can be associated with Boykoff’s “holiday of capitalism”, and the “temple” is associated with the purity of sports. Kenkichi Oshima, head of the Japanese delegation to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, spread Coubertin’s ideas to Japan. He said that the Olympic Games, which are held every four years, should be “blessed” as an event that fulfills dreams of peace. But since last year, the spread of the coronavirus has continued throughout the planet, and it is unlikely that in such a situation it is possible to receive a “blessing”. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Emperor Naruhito did not use the word “holiday”
It would be a mistake to attribute this oddity to the coronavirus pandemic alone. The covid-19 crisis has exposed the main challenges facing Japan. Behind the desire to make Tokyo the capital of the 2020 Olympic Games was a desire to return Japan to a prosperous past and end the protracted economic crisis that began after the economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. The country was obsessed with the desire to once again achieve the success of the 1964 Tokyo Games, to repeat that dream.
Among the slogans of the current summer games are to “recover” from the Great East Japan Shock of 2011 and “prove” that humanity has coped with the coronavirus. However, all this is nothing more than an emotional reworking of the old slogans about “recovery from the Second World War”, which was symbolized by the games of 1964. Don’t clear, whether the Japanese government and organizers thought about forming a nation in connection with these Olympic Games, but the slogans seem to be very suitable for this. The main proof of this: the Japanese nation is seeing the rapid spread of coronavirus infections. Only a small part of the public supported the holding of games in such conditions. During a pandemic, politics inevitably comes to the fore, as the conflict of opinion is exacerbated when it comes to crisis management at a mega-event.
Tokyo 2021 Gaming Concept is “Inclusiveness and Diversity”. It is based on the achievement of greater mutual understanding through competition that transcends all differences, including racial, gender, sexual, social and religious. The Olympic Refugee Team, created after the previous Summer Games, is a symbol of this concept. The team consists of 29 athletes from 11 countries who had to leave their homeland due to the civil war or for other reasons.
One of the members of the refugee team, Yusra Mardini from Syria, was forced to flee from there and across the sea to reach Europe. “This small team gives so much hope not only to refugees, but also to other young people,” Yusra said. Japan also has its own prominent and unusual athletes. For example, Rikako Ikee, a swimmer who managed to enter the Olympic team after defeating leukemia, or tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was taken to the United States by her parents as a child, where she grew up. Osaka has spoken out strongly against racial discrimination. It is this spirit that they are trying to institutionalize.
The flags that fly over the Olympic cities still symbolize years of institutional rule-making and political maneuvering. The American territories, including Guam and Puerto Rico, participate in the games independently. The combined North and South Korean teams in Pyeongchang in 2018 served as a catalyst for the resumption of peace talks.
A recent Taipei Times editor criticized the restrictions on Taiwan’s participation in the Olympic Games (the country competes under the name Chinese Taipei under the flag of the International Olympic Committee). In July 2021, the International Olympic Committee introduced new rules, on the one hand, relaxing restrictions on freedom of expression at games, and on the other, prohibiting demonstrations during the opening ceremonies, and this confirms that the Olympic paradox did not die in 1912.
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