As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach, more and more attention is being centered on this big event. The Olympic season is always a time of joy and celebration, when people worldwide gather and collectively cheer for their respective teams with national pride and athletes showcase their four years of hard work. Although every Olympics garners much attention because of its prestigious status in the world of sports, this year’s Olympics is particularly fascinating for various different reasons. The medals, which have a symbolic significance when it comes to the Olympics, are made of recycled waste; five new sports have been added; and lastly, the preparation for the games have already been surrounded by new controversies that have never risen before, making this Olympics different from previous ones.
“I am particularly excited for next year’s Olympics because although I am not a huge fan of sports, it is more meaningful to me than previous Olympics that was held elsewhere,” said Jennifer Kwon (10), former resident of Japan. “Putting the excitement aside, I am also worried about the environmental circumstances in Japan. I experienced the 2011 earthquake, which is one of the biggest causes of radiation in Japan. After that, I spent most of my life there avoiding any products produced in cautionary areas. While I hope many visitors can enjoy this festival, I am also bittersweet about a big number of people rushing to Japan.”
Right after the venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics was decided in 2013 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), many concerns regarding the radiation level in Japan were raised. The dangerous radiation levels were always a concern of both Japanese citizens and foreign countries after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As such, officials worrying about the health of the athletes advised the attending countries to prepare their own catering services. Some went even further to suggest the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics altogether because of the possibility of contamination. Regardless of such concerns, the Tokyo Olympics committee is planning to provide their own catering services, just like all previous Olympics hosts. However, although the government officials checked the safety of the produce served by these catering services, and the food was confirmed to be safe, it still remains unclear whether the Olympics committee will be able to dispel these worries completely.
“Although the Japanese government did confirm the fact that Tokyo is currently a safe enough environment for Olympics to be held, I can see why athletes along with the audience that will be attending the Olympics may still be a bit concerned,” said Alex Oh (12), follower of Olympics. “Radiation has been a problem for Japan ever since their big incident, so I think it makes sense that people, especially athletes, may still be worried about the overall environment in Japan. However, despite those concerns, I personally think we can trust the catering that Japan provides the athletes with.”
While the confirmation of food safety from the government somewhat addressed concerns, a new controversy subsequently arose. This time, the issue was related to the construction process. There were many issues about the safety of the workers who were stationed to build the venues. The problem emerged when there was a lack of manpower, which resulted in a significantly greater workload for each worker, in turn risking the safety of all of the workers. Because of the nature of Japan’s ageing society, a quarter of the workers in the construction sites are above the age of 60. In addition to the shortage of manpower and relatively old age of the workers, the rushed time schedule further hindered their safety.
“When I think about the Olympics, I do not think of a perfect event,” said Kendall Sadler, a teacher in SIS who enjoys watching the Olympics. “It is a legendary event where people come from all over the world to create a heated-up atmosphere in the stadiums. Although it is very unfortunate that a tragic nuclear disaster can have repercussions that last for generations, the Olympics is not about scrutinizing and criticizing one nation. The media tends to focus on the fact that Japan is not protecting the lives of individual workers, while disregarding what they are doing to ensure the safety of athletes and visitors. The Olympics is about setting aside conflicts, tensions, and history between foreign nations to enjoy this joyful event.”