After I finished covering the London Olympics, I decided to assess whether they were a success or not.
What do we consider a success? I think it should be first and foremost whether citizens and athletes were able to enjoy themselves. In that sense, the London Olympics were a success. The citizens of London were living their normal lives while enjoying the Games. And, of course, the fans that packed the Olympic Park and other venues cheered on and empowered the athletes.
But the fans were not fanatics. They were not directly chanting their country names such as “TGB” (Team Great Britain). Rather, audiences were cheering on teams and individual athletes. I think this is because the mature city of London understands the Olympic Charter, which states that the Olympic Games are competitions between teams or between individuals and not between nations.
Does this work to the advantage of Tokyo, which is placing a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics?
My answer is no. I don’t think Japan even understands the Olympic Charter. In the sports fundamental plan, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) set a goal of winning the fifth largest number of gold medals in the world, which it estimated to be around 15 gold medals. I’m not saying that the problem is that Japan’s gold medal count only reached seven.
In London, Japan won a total of 38 medals, the largest number in the history of Japanese participation in the Olympics. And the athletes truly inspired us through their performances. The achievements of Japanese athletes in minor sports especially were moving. But it’s nonsense for a nation to make the gold medal count its goal. This must be a sign that Tokyo and Japan are not mature.
Japan established the sports fundamental law, which paved the way for strengthening the training of the nation’s top athletes at the National Training Center (NTC) in Japan. At the London Olympics, the government-funded multi-support house helped support Japanese athletes.
But the government has allocated an extremely small budget to ensure the realization of lifetime sports as well as the right for every person to enjoy sports, which the sports fundamental law guarantees.
This part of the law--supporting citizens’ lifetime participation in sports--is where the money should be allocated instead of the vast funds necessary for the Olympic bid.
The Tokyo Olympic bid is still relying on so many new so-called “hakomono”--construction such as roads, dams, airports and stadiums. Watching Japan from London, it didn’t look like Tokyo was aiming to become a mature city.
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Kinya Nishimura is a senior staff writer of The Asahi Shimbun.
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