Japan Goes to War With Olympic Chief Over Hiroshima
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are hated by the locals as COVID-19 numbers surpass 1,000 a day. IOC President Thomas Bach has managed to make matters even worse.
TOKYO—The Olympic president pitched up in Hiroshima on Friday attempting to add a veneer of global peacemaking to a Games that is already mired in controversy and rejected by the citizens of the host country.
As Thomas Bach lowered his head to pay tribute to those who died in the nuclear bombing of August 6, 1945, the voices of angry protesters punctured the silence.
The locals were not having it.
A cluster of protesters held up signs denouncing the visit on a street adjacent to the Atomic Bomb Dome as the president of the International Olympic Committee laid a wreath of flowers at the Atomic Bomb Victims Memorial. Protests were scheduled to continue all day throughout the city.
Bach can’t say he was surprised. Japan, and Hiroshima in particular, had a message for President Bach and Vice President John Coates long before the “peace mission” began: Go ‘Bach’ home and don’t bother us anymore. Take your COVID-19 variants and your tax money-guzzling entourage and don’t come again. It would be hard to think of anyone more hated in Japan right now, than “Baron Ripoff” as he has been dubbed by the popular press, except for perhaps Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. There have been angry protests in front of the hotel where Bach has been staying and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has mobilized the police riot squad to protect the esteemed IOC elite from the unhappy citizens of the megalopolis. When Bach met with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike at the Metropolitan Headquarters in Shinjuku, on July 15, Japan’s military, the Self-Defense Forces, appeared to be guarding the perimeter. It’s not a festive mood.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are due to start in seven days, with roughly 70 percent of the public opposing them, and the capital now in its fourth state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 infections. The positivity rates for testing are well above what the World Health Organization considers a safe number to reopen a city.
Bach, who arrived in Japan on July 8, botched his opening salvo to its citizens by claiming he was aiming for a safe and secure Games for the “Chinese people,” during a meeting with the chair of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee. Of course, the Beijing Winter Olympics, which the IOC has approved for 2022 is also a source of great controversy due to China’s crushing of democracy in Hong Kong and its brutal treatment of the Uyghurs. But Bach doesn’t seem to care about their safety and human rights—the Olympics must go on.
Be that as it may, the safety of most Chinese people won’t come under threat from these Olympic Games; sadly that is not the case for the Japanese people. On Thursday, a petition calling for the cancelation of the Olympics was submitted to the government of Tokyo with 450,000 signatures. Although there is a feeling of resignation that the Olympics will happen, a recent poll found that over 80 percent of the public fears it will cause a surge in infections.
Be that as it may, you may wonder, why is Bach visiting Hiroshima in the first place and why aren’t the locals happy about it?
The Bubble Burst
The government has promised that the Olympics will be safe and secure; spectators have been banned at all venues in Tokyo and neighboring regions. The IOC and Japan have claimed that the participants will be contained in “a bubble” separate from the general populace, subject to strict quarantines, but that bubble has already burst. Athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving, a hotel reserved for the Olympics has had a cluster of infections, Olympics staff have also been infected, and bus drivers are not even vaccinated.
The so-called bubble is about as thin as a Sagami condom— much beloved by Chinese tourists in the old days but nowhere nearly as sturdy or trustworthy as the real deal. Sometimes “Made in Japan” solutions fail miserably.
Prime Minister Suga’s office has asked the Japanese people to be understanding about the IOC elite travelling across prefectures during the pandemic while everyone else’s movement has been curtailed. The Japanese government wants the world to know that “sending a message of peace is an important task,” but many in Nagasaki and Hiroshima—the only two cities in history that have experienced a nuclear attack—overwhelmingly oppose the visit.
There is speculation as to why Bach is so desperate to pay a visit to Hiroshima, but he appears to be amping up the idea that the Olympics is an important forum for world peace. The United Nations General Assembly confirmed the “Olympic Truce” period for Tokyo 2020 will be observed from July 16, 2021, to Sept. 12, 2021.
The concept of an “Olympic Truce,” dates back to the ancient Greeks. The truce, called ekecheiria, was first agreed in 776 B.C. by the kings of Sparta, Pisa, and Elis to allow spectators and athletes to safely travel to Olympia and back despite conflict in the region. The truce traditionally lasted from seven days before, to seven days after the games. The IOC resurrected this tradition in 1992 when they appealed to the United Nations to allow athletes from the former Yugoslavia, which had disintegrated that April, to compete in that year’s Barcelona Summer Olympics. The resolution was adopted in 1993 by the 48th U.N. General Assembly, and has been renewed every two years since.
But some people aren’t buying the peace initiative storyline.
On July 8, a Hiroshima resident opened an online petition for signatures to cancel Bach’s visit to her prefecture. The petition is titled, “Don’t abuse Hiroshima’s image of “peace” or the Olympics!!”
The author submitted the signatures collected to the prefectural government after amassing over 70,000 signatures. The author wrote that not only does the timing of the visit during the pandemic “show that the Olympics are not a ‘festival of peace,’” but that the date was particularly painful. Bach visited Hiroshima on July 16, the date in 1945 when the Manhattan Project staff launched the “Trinity Test,” detonating a plutonium implosion device in New Mexico that dawned the atomic age. Less than a month later, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One can see how this tone-deaf coincidence would anger some residents of both prefectures.
Atomic Bomb Survivors Have Mixed Emotions
Shigemitsu Tanaka, the chairman of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Victims Council, told the Daily Beast that hosting the Olympics in Japan as the nation continues to struggle with low vaccination rates and new infections violates the supposed tenets of peace and friendship the Games represent.
Friends don’t give friends deadly contagious diseases, if they can avoid it.
“Athletes could import variants of the virus to Japan, and there is also the risk of cross-infection between athletes and Olympic staff from various countries that then take the illness back home with them. This is why I am against the Tokyo Olympics,” he said.
Toshiyuki Mimaki, the acting chairman of the Hiroshima Prefecture Atomic Bomb Victims Association, similarly said the IOC’s visit during the pandemic is questionable and completely different from past trips by foreign leaders like that of former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2016, or Pope Francis in 2019. Obama was welcomed by the Japanese public, while then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the current PM’s political guru, was shunned for his efforts to amend the constitution and revive the Japanese military.
“I went and watched the previous Tokyo Olympics when I was 22. This current situation is entirely different,” Mimaki said. “COVID-19 changes everything. When President Obama visited, the people of Hiroshima were lining the streets wanting to catch what kind of car he would arrive in. And when Pope Francis visited, he had the time to tour the various historical locations. However, to have Bach come now to Hiroshima, especially as new COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Tokyo? The people of Hiroshima do not welcome that,” Mimaki said.
Despite both representatives of atomic bomb survivors sympathizing with voices disapproving of the IOC visits, they also said they would not protest influential international figures visiting their respective bomb sites.
“I’m not sure whether Coates has ever visited our memorial. However, I will not protest, but rather encourage a leadership figure in the international sporting world to come to our museums,” Tanaka said in an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this week. “We want every opportunity for people to visit our museums and memorials and learn about our experiences surviving the atomic bomb.”
Tanaka added that many Japanese politicians, including former Prime Minister Abe, rarely visit the bomb sites themselves. Therefore, he wants anyone from the international community to take a look.
“Regardless of whether we oppose it or not, they are going to come anyway,” Mimaki said. “Since they’re visiting, we would be grateful if they took the time to look at the buildings that record our history through its burns, observe the clothes of the children who were scorched by the bomb, and learn about the threats posed by nuclear weapons.”
Suga and his cadre of Liberal Democratic Party flunkies have said over and over again that the Olympics should be held to show that “we have won against COVID-19.” The problem is that the war isn’t even close to being over. And their uber ally in this insane fight, the IOC, is just as blind. When Bach told a meeting of the International Hockey Federation in May that: “The athletes definitely can make their Olympic dreams come true. We have to make some sacrifices to make this possible,” Japan was outraged.
The “We” here isn’t the IOC.
The IOC has made every athlete and participant sign a pledge absolving them of any responsibility for the calamity which may come.
“I agree that I participate in the Games at my own risk and own responsibility, including any impact on my participation to and/or performance in the Games, serious bodily injury or even death, raised by the potential exposure to health hazards such as the transmission of covid-19 and other infectious disease or extreme heat conditions.”
Who is going to make a sacrifice, again? All of those coming here as part of the IOC brigade have been vaccinated. Eighty-four percent of the Japanese people have not. The top dogs of the IOC are staying in five-star hotels, while the everyday citizens struggle with summer heatwaves and rising COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, there were over 1,300 new cases in Tokyo. Hospitalizations in all age groups are surging as well.
The people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and those in Japan who still remember the war, know that when megalomaniacs insist on getting their way, it’s always the innocent people and the civilians who end up paying the price. It’s not surprising that these so-called harbingers of peace are not welcome in a place that knows the costs of vainglorious wars.