Monday, 9 September 2013

Time For Games

The Olympics are coming to Tokyo.

It’s reasonable to take the view that this is a wonderful thing, it revitalises the Japanese nation after the tough time it has had since the tsunami and that nuclear mishap in Fukushima (Don’t say the F-word, it’s bad for business-- Ed.) It’s reasonable to point to the enormous costs and pointless public works that will pour billions into corporations’ hands at the expense of the taxpayers as Tokyo gets another 10 stadiums to squeeze into it’s already asphalted footprint. You could take the reasonable view that the Olympics are largely a waste of time and effort but if anyone can absorb the waste, Tokyo can.

But to Hell with reasonable.

It’s shameful.

It’s been two and half years since the tsunami, and still thousands of people are living in worn out   temporary prefab houses in shanty towns. Many children don’t have access to playing fields, let alone neighbourhood schools. And that’s to say nothing of the continuing cock-up in Fukushima that proves day in and day out that 3/11 is not over.

But Tokyo can find an extra five billion bucks to bring the circus to town, get to wallow in the wholly unmerited symbolism of a nation that has overcome adversity, when in fact all it has done is overcome its guilt, happy to consign Tohoku to annual TV specials and to get on with selling Japan Inc. with added Olympic Spirit.

Oh, but Our Man, don’t be unreasonable. The tsunami was hardly Tokyo’s fault and it has to move on. The people of Tohoku will all be uplifted by the Olympics. It’s not either/or. We can have our Olympic cake and eat it!

Maybe Our Man is just being a Grumpy Old Man, but…

As long as the Tokyo higher-ups cash in on the tsunami victims for sympathy but do nothing to ease their plight, as long as the Tokyo Electric Power Company continues to botch the cleanup of Fukushima and evade all responsibility, there’s no time for games just yet.


Martin said...

An interesting take. I honestly hadn't thought of any of this, which surprised me a bit because I'm usually a cynic and Grumpy Old Man about such things too. Of course there's a risk of corporate suits rubbing their hands and cashing in while genuine problems are left you, I hope it won't happen but I won't be surprised either if it did.

The funny thing is, we Brits uttered a collective groan at the thought of the Olympics landing in our crowded, disorganised, recession-battered capital last year, and sure enough there's not all that much evidence that the rest of the country saw any lasting benefit. Still, we expected it to be a massive fiasco and a national embarrassment...except it wasn't. So many things could've failed epically, but didn't. In the end it was actually something for us as a nation to feel happy about overall...or at least be happy about being proved wrong about.

Maybe it's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but if London can do it, I'm cautiously optimistic about Tokyo. Here's hoping we're glad to be proved wrong again, eh?

Patrick Sherriff said...

I'm sure it'll be all right on the night. And it's not a matter of either the Olympics or relieve Tohoku. It just seems that instead of both we're getting only one. The glitzy, bullshit option rather than anything of any substance.