The Olympic games are the world’s leading global sporting event dating back to the 8th century BCE in Greece. It is hard to find a person unfamiliar with this organization, and this global event that takes place every four years. However, with a history of over two-thousand years, it is natural that the Olympics are an ever-changing event. While the modern Olympics are far removed from their ancient origins, the most notable and potentially controversial feature is the rotation of host cities chosen by the Olympic committee.
In 2020 Tokyo was preparing to host the games. On the train, in advertisements and even souvenir stores, the 2020 Olympic games branding was popping up all over Tokyo as early as 2018. As we drew closer to the start of the events, there was a rather large elephant in the room. With the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, it was very unclear what would be the future of the Tokyo Olympics.
In August of 2021, everyone in Tokyo and around the world is well aware of the ongoing games and all the victories and controversies surrounding them. It is easy to get caught up in issues such as housing displacement, lackluster safety measures, and the constant feed of stories taking over headlines across the news and social media, and while these are very important issues to be discussed in earnest, there is an enjoyment in cheering for your own country and seeing the results from competition at the highest level. These athletes are taking an often once in a lifetime chance to display their top-class skills that they have worked their life for and see how it measures up to the rest of the world.
Here at LanCul this has been a hot topic at many of our sessions. With the buzz about this topic, I wanted to take the chance to get the opinions from a few of our mates from different parts of the world about the 2021 games in Tokyo.
Gabriel from Chile said that he has been keeping up the games and checks the results daily. While he was enthusiastic about keeping up with the events, he did have his worries saying, “I do not agree with the celebration of the Olympics with the current situation in Tokyo, and overall I think the health measures are not properly practiced inside the Olympic village and outside as well.” As a fan of the Olympics he thinks that it “Would have been more appropriate to celebrate the games next year or in a better time that way people could enjoy it more.”
Gabriel also shared his thoughts about the significance of the Olympic games: “In modern times we have access to infinite information through the internet. We can watch and read about other countries, but we can not experience it. Being in contact with people from different cultures gives you a different perspective of life. That’s why the Olympics is one of the biggest cultural exchange events. It is sad that athletes came from so far just to play and then return back to their home, with many of them empty-handed, not even cultural experiences.”
Talking to Rabbi from Pakistan, her views on the games were a bit more critical. She said that she watched the opening ceremony, but after that has only kept up with them through the news.
When asked about how she felt about the circumstances around the events this year, she said, “I understand that a lot of money was spent in preparation and it would be sad to not let them happen, but the government should have gotten at least half of their population vaccinated before they decided to go ahead with this.” She continued to express her concerns about the safety measures saying, “Now I’m reading news about how players are leaving the olympic village for sightseeing even though they have been prohibited to do so, and how they’re not wearing masks. Some athletes were not even wearing masks during the ceremony which went live all over the world.”
As for the question of the value of the Olympic games in modern times, Rabbi had this to say: “I feel like the Olympics have no value in modern times. Host cities are left staggering in the aftermath, and questions about environmental damage and sustainability, athlete abuse and human right violations are left unanswered.”
Laura is one of our new mates coming from Spain. She said that she is not really following the games, but will sometimes see it on the news of social media. Her impressions about the games this year were that she was, “very excited at first. When I came to Japan I thought it would be great if I could volunteer there because it sounded like a very good opportunity to me. But then Corona happened and I don’t necessarily agree with the measures the government has taken so it made me lose my interest in the Olympics. I think it’s a big risk.”
Despite her disappointment in the circumstances surrounding this year’s games, she still sees value in the Olympics saying that “I think it is an event that is very culturally significant because few events bring people from all countries together. But it was just not the right time to do it, they could totally have been held a little bit later when the majority of the population gets vaccinated.”
There are many worries surrounding the Olympics this year in our global situation, and it is easy to agree that some changes should be made moving forward for the future of the Olympics. Many people are proud to host the games in their hometown, but with this honor also comes an equal amount of troubles, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. It is easy to have a bleak outlook on the games moving forward, but we can all hope and push for positive change to help protect the value that it can provide.
The cultural exchange, the spirit of competition, and the admiration of human achievement are all positive features that the Olympics can bring. Moving forward we can only hope to see changes to this system that minimize the bad, and highlight the good.
If you would like to talk about the Olympic games, get the opinions of more of our mates from around the world, or even share your own thoughts on this topic, please come join us online or in person for LanCul connect!