01 March 2014

Let's Get This Party Started! Tokyo 2020

On the cold winter nights, or days with damp or icy roads, I happened to watch a bit of the Sochi winter Olympics.  I was hoping to get a glimpse of Pussy Riot in the viewer stands protesting, or maybe the tanned Vladimir Putin with his shirt off winning the snow-cross gold medal in balmy weather (all the other racers mysteriously having "fallen" when off camera).

No, I did not witness any such spectacular scenes.  But at least the Olympics did seem to bestow a kind of modest protective shield over the protesters in Kiev, holding off any kind of massive Russian military intervention.

And just watching a few of the skiing events on TV got me in the Olympic spirit and revved up about the prospect of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Summer games.  If I will be in Tokyo over the period up to the games, maybe there is something I can do to help out?  Maybe even something to do with the cycling events?

And if the Sochi Olympics brought a focus upon gay rights and Russia's anti-gay laws, perhaps the Tokyo Olympics will be a chance to nudge Japan in the direction of internationalization and diversity?

Perhaps the Abe administration will be pushed to make good on its target that by 2020 thirty percent (30%, that is right!!!) of directors at both governmental agencies AND private companies will be women, up from 3% now.  And maybe Tokyo's new governor Masuzoe (age 65), one of a generation of exciting younger leaders, will follow through on campaign discussion about efforts to make Tokyo a truly world class bicycle-friendly and visitor-friendly city?

Let's get this party started!

Yesterday my morning newspaper included an insert with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's March 2014 newsmagazine.  It included an inspirational greeting by Masuzoe, who will strive to make Tokyo the best city in the world ("世界一の都市へ")!  Next to it was an article on the announcement on January 24 of the official Tokyo Organizing Committee.  Great -- things are starting to move!

Then I looked at the photo of the Committee accompanying the article:

Diversity?  Yes!  

At least 2 of the members appear to be under 70 years old.  This will send a great message of inclusion to Japan's younger population, including actual athletes.

Leadership?  Even better!

Who better to lead the committee than sportsman (rugby, Waseda Univ.) journalist (Sankei Shimbun) and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori (age 76).

Mori has a larger-than-life track record, having led the LDP to an electoral defeat of truly historic proportions back in 2001, something he managed to accomplish after only a single year in office.

As a "one-year prime minister" he was a trend setter, establishing the pattern for the later Abe, Fukuda, Aso, Hatoyama, Kan and Noda governments between 2007 and 2012.  Mori has always been know for a great rugby tackle, the "Mori slide", but now that term is just shorthand for a graph showing government approval ratings going from majority to near single digits over the first year of a prime ministerial reign.

With an unrivalled history of gaffes (nicely summarized in his current Wikipedia entry), we can expect to get some interesting insights, now that he has microphones in front of him again after more than a decade of microphones on mute.
Indeed, only a few weeks after his appointment as Chairman of the organizing committee, he thoughtfully commented on Japanese national beloved figure skater Mao Asada's disappointing performance in the short program.  Leading Japanese wire service Kyodo quoted Mori as grumbling:  "I went to see Mao-chan do her best for us (in the team competition), but she flopped spectacularly," said Mori, ... . "Without fail, she falls at critical times."
He seemed to forget Mao's Silver Medal performance in Vancouver in 2010 or her two World Championships.  
Of course, Mori also could not understand why Japan would field an ice dancing team of Chris and Cathy Reed, both born in the U.S.A. to a Japanese mother, and complained about them as well.  How can they represent Japan?  They even live and train in the U.S.A., and are "not good enough to make the U.S. team."  Someone must have made a mistake in letting them on the team.
Mori exemplifies the Olympic Movement, whose goal it is to "contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
Mori's comments on the Reeds did not ruffle many feathers, but Mao Asada is a different matter.  She is extremely popular, a national hero of sorts.  After she redeemed herself with a strong performance in the long/free program the day following his comments, it was a huge, banner story on the front page of all the newspapers.  Women around Japan cried in public and said on camera that they felt Mao-chan's suffering was their suffering, her victory their victory.  She got her best marks ever in the free program (though still not as good as the marks awarded two other skaters, including longtime Korean rival Yuna Kim).
When Mori next appeared in public, to give yet another speech, on February 23 at the opening of the Tokyo Marathon, he was openly booed by the thousands of runners.

UPDATE:  On March 17, there were press reports that the Tokyo organizing committee is adding 28 new members, including 7 women, and many athletes, former Olympians and "cultural figures".  The women were apparently added "in response to a push by the International Olympic Committee calling for more [any?] female representation."

I look forward to a picture of the new, expanded committee appearing in an upcoming edition of my Tokyo Metropolitan Government newsletter!

UPDATE:  In June 2014, Monocle Magazine ranks Tokyo as #2 most liveable city in the world!   Yes, low crime and lack of urban decay are great, but also clean, reliable public transit, and high rankings in "softer" categories -- easy to find a glass of wine at 1 or 2AM, and you can do your supermarket shopping easily on a Sunday.  So Tokyo does seem to triumph over its politicians.


mob said...

To describe Tokyo new governor Masuzoe as belonging to a new generation of exciting "younger" leaders say much about Japan and its demographics.

I found an interesting BBC documentary about the topic which although sometimes is very sensational and focused on pecularities, rings a bell.


Anonymous said...


Well, Masuzoe is an exciting character, even if not quite "young" anymore. Who among us is? At least he has significant international experience.

And he is "known to have five children, three of which were born out of wedlock by two other women" [in addition to his 3 marriages], so he refutes the BBC documentary almost singlehandedly.

laurent said...

Have we turned into a political opinion blog now? I liked it better when the blog stuck to cycling.
For the rest, there are plenty of other sites.

David L. said...


A good point, though this is sport politics, at least, and it was a kind of knee jerk reaction to the photo.

It does seem to have hit a nerve, with several hundreds of page views very quickly (in part thanks to Hiroshi linking to the post).

If I have offended I can remove the post.

Better yet, if others would like to add cycling (or running or other athletic) posts to P.E., then I would gladly see it morph back into a collective effort.

David L. said...

See the update at the bottom of the post -- organizing committee expanded from 7 to 35 members. 7 women added! many former athletes, etc.javascript:void(0)