China's Chen Shi takes part in a canoe slalom training session in Tokyo Bay ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. Japanese engineers had to isolate part of the bay so that competitors could avoid pollution. (Photo: AFP)
It all started with a terrible stench floating over Tokyo Bay. The athletes that swam there two years ago said it was like taking a dive in a latrine. It was regarded as the biggest of setbacks, so scores of engineers gathered their expertise to find a solution.
At that time nothing seemed to be a bigger problem. It was embarrassing for the city and the Japanese Olympic Committee. So much so that around the area a series of fences were set in place so that reporters, self-employed video makers and the like could not take compromising pictures of the scene.
Then came Covid and all hell broke loose. Politicians and the public even forgot there was ever a problem with the water quality. Now the air was the problem. It also felt dirty and was carrying this apparently undefeatable contagion.
Fast-forward 18 months and we are approaching the end of the Olympic Games. Covid cases are hitting record levels in Tokyo and the whole of Japan. The 14,000 cases reported on Aug. 5 were 10 times more than a month ago. Hospitals are asking people to stay home even if they have severe breathing problems as there are no beds to spare. In the last two weeks alone, eight people have died from Covid at home, nearly as many as in the previous seven months.
The dreaded Delta variant is creeping in. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took the obvious decision to allow no spectators at the Games. It could not have been otherwise as fewer than 15 percent of Japanese were vaccinated due to a slow start of injections and the inability to convince people of the total safety of “foreign” vaccines. Some admitted that if it were a Japanese-made vaccine, they would have trusted it more.
But problems never seem to end. After they rushed to declare this Olympics a landmark of gender equality, who did the organizers choose to direct the opening ceremony? Composer Keigo Oyamada. Someone who back in the ‘90s when he was in his 20s gave an interview to a magazine not only admitting but bragging about torturing and bullying special needs students when he was in elementary school and later on.
It was only thanks to a massive revolt of citizens on the internet that Oyamada was finally pressed to withdraw
He literally made these defenseless people eat their own feces, forced them to strip naked and wrapped them up in mattresses. Everybody knew about his evil deeds because he boasted about them until a few years ago. But the organizing committee went ahead with their decision anyway, saying Oyamada had apologized after all. Surely the public will understand, right? Wrong.
It was only thanks to a massive revolt of citizens on the internet that Oyamada was finally pressed to withdraw.
And it was thanks to another Twitter revolt that another VIP got justice served. The mayor of Nagoya took off his mask and decided to bite the hard-won gold medal of a female softball player, handing it back to her as if it was a gift. Besides bacteria and who knows what else, this was a horrendous gesture, especially in a culture that is repulsed by the mere touching of hands.
The Twitterati described the stunt as seku-hara (sexual harassment). The athlete was unable to react to the mayor’s gesture as the media representatives at the ceremony, complacently and cowardly, laughed out loud.
Personalities like Yumeno Nito, who works in an association that supports women who have been harassed, intervened and explained that the mayor’s act was a typical dynamic of power imbalance, where girls cannot protest as they see themselves in a subordinate position. He compared the mayor’s behavior to that of a molester.
If we consider that the president of the Japanese Olympic committee had to resign for saying that women speak too much and are boring, and that Suga has never seen a worse rating of his governance, we can say the Olympics have not brought any good fortune to Japan’s politicians.
The Olympics has provided a perfect measure of the incompetence of the Japanese government — an elite class (jokyukokumin) totally detached from the average citizen's life whose eligibility for public office is passed down from father to son.
No one is complying with the authorities’ suggestions to stay home and not drink alcohol
The political class is now trying to unload its ineptitude again on its citizens, who have even seen their holidays shifted and concentrated during the Olympic period so as to reduce the number of passengers on public transport in the capital.
After the government declared a fourth state of emergency that will last until the end of August at a time when small businesses in Tokyo are going bankrupt by the hundreds, restaurants and hotels will have to keep their doors half-open while paying rent in full.
Although the Japanese are notoriously obedient people, they are rebelling. No one is complying with the authorities’ suggestions to stay home and not drink alcohol. In fact, they are doing just the opposite as the pubs and izakayas have become the new bootleggers.
It's hard for politicians to convince people that their decisions are wise, and therefore should be complied with, when their recent record speaks so loudly of the utmost failures. The Japanese remember well their education days. At school they were taught to learn by following their superiors’ example. Those precious Confucian codes are now taking their toll.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.