Bidwell: Japan’s Olympic nightmare should make Brisbane exercise good sense

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Opinion – Can the good folk of Brisbane really not see who they’re getting into bed with?

Photo: AFP

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By all reports, Brisbane is about to be named host city for the 2032 Olympic Games, becoming the third Australian city to receive the honour.

Brisbane has already been conferred with ‘preferred candidate’ status by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose executive board is set to confirm the 2032 host city before the 2021 edition starts in Japan on 23 July.

Of all words said and written about the damned Tokyo Olympiad, none were so chilling as those of Kaori Yamaguchi in recent days.

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Yamaguchi, a former Olympic medallist and now an executive member of the Japanese Olympic Committee, laid bare just what a despicable outfit the IOC is.

In an editorial for Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Yamaguchi characterised the IOC as some kind of loan shark or underworld group who the people of Tokyo have made an ill-advised deal with.

No matter how badly Japan’s Covid-19 situation deteriorates and how widespread the public’s wish that the games do not go ahead becomes, the country is “cornered”.

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“What will these Olympics be for and for whom? The Games have already lost meaning and are just being held for the sake of them,” Yamaguchi wrote.

“I believe we have already missed the opportunity to cancel. It would require too much energy to make and follow through with such a decision.

“We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do and damned if we do not.

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“But it also presents a good opportunity for athletes to confront the Olympics. I wonder if the organisers will be able to provide them with a solid reason for holding the games despite public sentiment that it is impossible at this time.”

Yamaguchi, a professor at the University of Tsukuba, professed astonishment at the words of IOC vice president John Coates, who said the games would go ahead even under a state of emergency, and those of IOC president Thomas Bach, when he pronounced Tokyo the best-prepared Olympic city ever and urged athletes to “come with full confidence”.

“I wondered which games he was talking about,” she said.

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This isn’t just an opportunity for athletes to “confront” the IOC and its practices, but for all of us.

Japan is being bullied into staging these previously-postponed Olympics. The IOC might like to portray sport as a great unifier, but the one thing the Japanese are united in is their wish that these games not be held at all.

“The ‘power of sports’ is of little comfort to people worried about the medical situation and their future lives. What has meaning in times of peace does not have meaning in times of strife,” Yamaguchi said.

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“If we push on like this, even if the Olympics stir our emotions, we will be left with a bitter aftertaste. I hope athletes will use this experience to grow into people who can speak out and debate.

“I also hope they will have the determination to change the sports world into one where people can once again support them wholeheartedly.”

We all get that the Olympics are big, we know that sponsors and networks have paid a fortune to be associated with these games.

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Just as we know previous host cities have been left bankrupt by the experience.

But these are, as Yamaguchi said, extreme circumstances. These are times in which 13,000 Japanese have died from Covid-19 already.

Medical resources that would have been dedicated to the local population are now being allocated to this awful Olympiad, raising fears about how high the death toll could grow.

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Are people happy with this? Because it’s ‘their’ problem – rather than ‘ours’ – is it no big deal? Are some lives worth more than others? Should the people of Japan just shut up and get on with it?

At what point does the IOC make itself sufficiently odious for people to act? Or are they entitled to do as they please, safe in the knowledge that they’re untouchable?

And will we all soon be captivated by the event itself and forget about the inconvenient side issues?

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I’ve written and said many times that I don’t care for the Olympics. I simply can’t take the performances at face value and the rampant nationalism revolts me too.

But these are new lows for the IOC. It’s grotesque what’s happening here and among the various tragedies involved, is that more people of Yamaguchi’s ilk aren’t prepared to speak out.

Our friends in Queensland can’t say they haven’t been warned.

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