What Tokyo leaves behind
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Naoto Takenaka is a Japanese actor known for his role in the movie “Shall We Dance” in the 1990s. At the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, Takenaka was to appear to play the role of the master carpenter. But he chose not to participate the day before the event. He thought his skit deriding people with disabilities in 1985 would create controversy.
Takenaka was the last runner in the Olympics’ “resignation relay” as the Games are referred to as “scandal Olympics.” In February, former Chairman of the Organizing Committee Yoshiro Mori stepped down for his misogynistic comment, “Meetings with women take a lot of time.” A series of resignations continued as many officials turned out to have made controversial comments in the past. Hiroshi Sasaki, chief producer of the opening and closing ceremonies, stepped down in March when it was revealed he came up with the idea of dressing a female actor as a pig.
On July 19, shortly before the opening, music director Keigo Oyamada resigned as he had assaulted and fed a disabled classmate human feces. On July 22, director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired for using the Holocaust as a subject of comedy.
They may seem like separate incidents, but in the end, they were involved in hatred against vulnerable groups, such as women, the handicapped and other ethnic groups. They all gave the same statement for their resignation. “It was against the Olympic spirit of equality and harmony,” they said. In other words, if not for the Olympic Games, it wouldn’t have been revealed that discrimination and hatred are so widespread and common in Japan, an economic and cultural power.
What legacy will the Tokyo Olympics leave in Japan in the remaining week? As the Games go on, Covid-19 is rapidly spreading, and the pain is expected to continue after the athletes return home. Japan may find pride in winning the “most medals in history,” but at the price of athletes who struggled under unfavorable conditions.
But the biggest accomplishment would be finally revealing the lagging status of Japan as it goes through the “global standards” of the Olympics. The joy of gold medals and chaos of Covid-19 will end some day, but the minorities will have to live in Japan for a long time. In that sense, I hope we can one day say that the Olympics was a “lucky” event for Japan.