Media Mix, Sept. 22, 2013

tumblr_mt1xm0Ie4m1ql0h9vo1_400Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is a survey of negative reactions in the media to Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. One of the more interesting pieces of information I came across while researching the column had to do with the aborted 1940 Olympics, which was supposed to take place in Tokyo. Though I was aware that it was cancelled because of the Japanese Imperial Army’s “adventure” in China, I did not know that the games were canceled by Japan itself. Interestingly, the IOC awarded the games to Tokyo as a means of strengthening Japan’s diplomatic power following its alienation from the League of Nations over the Mukden Incident of 1931, which was staged by the Japanese military as a premise for invading Manchuria. The IOC and government of Tokyo were behind the bid, but the Japanese national government, already controlled by the military, was never very supportive, and when war broke out between Japan and China in 1937 the military requested that the Tokyo Olympics be forfeited. The IOC and local boosters persisted until July 1938 when the Diet formally gave up the Olympics, and the IOC transferred the games to Helsinki. Of course, they weren’t held there, either, because of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, but it’s interesting to ponder what would have happened if the Japanese government hadn’t canceled the Tokyo games, which would have taken place during the last week of Sept. and first week of Oct. 1940, a full 15 months before Pearl Harbor. Though it’s likely international pressure might have come to bear on the IOC to cancel the Tokyo games in light of Japan’s imperialistic forays into Asia (not to mention a paucity of countries participating since they would be busy fighting Nazis), it’s not entirely clear that the IOC, which seemed determined to bring Asia into the Olympics in a more formal way, would have bowed to such pressure. Then again, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin already showed the world the public face of fascism, so it might not have had the stomach for another possible nationalistic display. For strictly academic reasons, it would be interesting to see what kind of show Tokyo might have put on in 1940. Since one of the hallmarks of wartime Japan was its anti-West stance (not counting ally Germany, at least formally), would Tokyo have been as welcoming of foreigners in Sept. 1940, when the propaganda machine had already been warmed up? And would any other Asian countries have even attended–not so much because they may not have trusted Japan’s intentions, but because at the time many were still under European colonial rule? Also, it should be noted that the term hikokumin (non-citizen), which is now being used by nationalists against any Japanese person who has objected to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is closely identified with this period, since it came into common use to describe people whom the Japanese military police persecuted for not showing sufficient patriotic fervor.

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