Editorial: Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics

Games must embody principle of peace

At its session in Buenos Aires the International Olympic Committee selected Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Thus Tokyo vindicated its unsuccessful bid of four years ago.

Educating young people through sports and contributing to building a peaceful and better world are the basis of the Olympic movement as set forth in the Olympic Charter. Let us make the Tokyo Olympics the embodiment of these principles.

The Olympic Games are the biggest stage for the world’s top athletes, and they undeniably provide many exciting moments. They also greatly inspire children who are dedicated to sports. This is the first good news in Japan for quite some time.

In the campaign to win the Olympics, Tokyo was initially said to be in a close contest with Istanbul and then, at the end, Madrid. Tokyo was apparently recognized for its solid preparations for hosting the games and for its safety.

Joint public-private effort successful

Tokyo’s success is the result of extensive lobbying by members of the Japanese Olympic Committee and others. Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister, arrived in Buenos Aires early on, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave the final presentation himself. This joint effort by the public and private sectors proved successful.

The basic principles of the Olympic Games are the promotion of a peaceful society, personal growth, friendship and solidarity. By rights, they should represent a clear departure from the notion that winning is everything and from efforts to boost national prestige.

Nevertheless, during the Cold War the Olympics were strongly colored by East-West conflict. In the 1980s, when the games grew into a massive financial enterprise, they were heavily criticized for their commercialism. There is reason to believe the Olympics also provided the spark for economic development in emerging nations.

The Olympics have been dogged by criticism that the principles of the games and the reality are worlds apart. So, what is the significance of holding the Olympics in Tokyo? Tokyo must not get too excited about its big win and continue to remind itself of where it stands.

Tokyo will be the first city in Asia to host the games twice. At the time of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Japan had forged ahead from postwar reconstruction to economic growth. Now, in the aftermath of the bubble economy, the population has begun to decline, but the excessive concentration of people and industry in the Tokyo area continues.

With the Olympics as the fourth arrow of “Abenomics,” the administration hopes to end deflation. The economic effect of the Olympics is estimated at 3 trillion yen.

Of course, a boost to the economy would be welcome. But it would only be the result of the Olympics, not a target or objective. We need to consider aggressive inducements that will create a ripple effect in areas outside Tokyo.

Significance lies in reconstruction assistance

With regard to the significance of holding the Olympics there, Tokyo has cited reconstruction assistance for the areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

What is the current situation? The leakage of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant continues to be of concern to people both in Japan and overseas. Prime Minister Abe’s assurance that the situation was “under control” seemed to clinch it for Tokyo.

It is no surprise that many people in Fukushima Prefecture objected to this groundless assertion. Nearly 300,000 evacuees from Fukushima and other areas in the Tohoku region are still scattered throughout Japan.

The central government must not forget that containing the contaminated water and other radioactive materials is a serious international commitment. It is a huge responsibility to put on Olympics games that can properly represent the themes of reconstruction assistance and safety.

Of course, political neutrality is a basic premise of the Olympics, but over the years the games have been influenced by conflict and strife. This was epitomized by the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by Japan and other nations in the wake of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Precisely because there is peace, competitions can be held. Sports can also promote the building of trust and serve as a stepping stone to peace. The political leaders of nations with ongoing civil strife and friction with their neighbors should bear in mind the principles of the Olympic Charter.

Hiroshima also considered bid

Hiroshima once explored the possibility of launching a bid for the Olympics as an effort to bring about the abolition of nuclear weapons. The significance of that effort also lies in the principles of the Olympic Charter. In the end, the challenge proved far too difficult, but shining a light on the “festival of peace” portion of the foundation of the Olympics was not without significance.

We would like Tokyo to respect these principles as well. Hiroshima and Nagasaki will mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings during the Tokyo Olympics. If people from Japan and overseas visit those cities too, it will provide an opportunity to share the desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons more widely.

In order to do that, we would like the central government to make concerted efforts to create peace in Asia. Let us restore friendly relations with our neighbors and cheer each other on unreservedly. That is the sort of Olympics we would like to see.

(Originally published on September 10, 2013)