• 2021.08.23
  • The Tokyo Olympics: Go Japan!

The Tokyo Olympics began amidst a wave of domestic criticism, and I have a feeling there are still a lot of people who are against it.

It’s unfortunate that even here in faraway Europe, I can imagine that what would normally be a time for great celebration is now tinged with guilt, and people are finding it hard to get genuinely excited.

I have family and friends who are serving as volunteer staff members for the Olympics this year, and they were saying that even as it came time for rehearsals before the Games started, some were afraid to walk around in their uniforms. I guess they were particularly concerned about getting on the trains, so they’d go by car, or change into their uniforms when they got to the venue for fear of being assaulted. I’m heartbroken that this kind of thing is going on in Japan right now.

Has Japan gone overboard with the attacks on others these days? When your opinion is the same as the mainstream, it gives you the illusion that it must be correct, and you even start seeing those who think differently as your enemies. But the truth is that we should be respecting different views.

“The Olympics kicked off today despite opposition from 80% of the Japanese population, which is important to realize,” came the commentary from a young reporter sporting an afro on a European sports channel. The same channel had featured the Olympic venues and interviewed people on the streets, but that content had all been positive. All of the interview responses were in support of the Olympics, too, with one person saying they hoped that the Games restored people’s optimism.

The UEFA European Football Championship is a huge soccer event in Europe that happens only once every four years, and this year was the first time it was jointly held in several countries. Some limited the number of spectators in the stadium, some had none at all—or were terrifyingly packed. That in itself turned into a spectator sport. It was a good outlet for the Europeans, who were pent up from the pandemic, and the championship ended up being an even more lively event than usual.

Maybe it was because the championship went on as if nothing had changed, but I ended up believing that the Olympics should naturally carry on as well. Every time a non-Japanese person would ask me what was going to happen with the Olympics, I would think to myself, “Just wait until you see the precautions they take! The Games will go on!”
In covering stories for work, I’ve come across athletes who have quit their jobs in order to dedicate themselves to Olympic training, so I thought that it was a great thing that the Games had begun—not just for the competing athletes but for all the other people involved who had been preparing for so long as well.
That’s why the Opening Ceremonies were so moving to me this time. It was overall a bit heavy—maybe because the people handling it were replaced at the last minute and everyone was aware of the opposition, but I actually felt like they were a refreshing emergence from a dark tunnel.

The country parades were fascinating to watch because of the different types of processions. On one hand, those that wanted to emphasize their safety precautions naturally had the athletes wear masks and maintained distance between them. Others, like Italy, had them come out with their arms around each other's shoulders to show their team spirit and sense of unity. Brazil had only two athletes in their procession, and some countries forwent masks entirely.
So what about Portugal? In a manner directly opposite to their sober national character, Portuguese people came out absolutely exuberant. Here come the country bumpkins for all to see! One headline wrote something about the Portuguese flag moving harder than any other… but notice the choice of words. Not “waving,” but “moving.”

IOC President Thomas Bach commented that holding the Olympics in Japan was what made them possible this year. When you live outside of Japan, you can really see the truth in what he said. People all over the world still see Japan as an incredibly clean and put-together country.
There are a lot of risks associated with holding the Olympics amidst the uncertainties of a pandemic, and the responsibility and damage Japan is facing are incalculable. But the world believes that Japan is the kind of country that can overcome them and is up to the task.
I think that it is precisely because the Olympics are being held in Japan that the world’s athletes feel safe participating in them.

The Tokyo Olympics are still facing strong headwinds in Japan, but I hope that once it’s all over, people will be glad they went through with it.
Everybody is exhausted from this drawn-out pandemic, so I just hope and pray that the people of Japan find a way to have fun with the Olympics and put smiles back on everyone’s faces.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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