The Games People Play / 11 September 2013
The weekend that Tokyo got selected for the 2020 Olympic/Paralympic Games, was one of celebration. When I got here I couldn't escape the giant posters with the ring of stylised flowers, the official Olympic logo and writ large: Tokyo Candidate City.
However, on the BBC I read that one of the factors counting against Tokyo's selection was an apparent lack of enthusiasm among the people. I wonder where they were looking/asking?
Tokyo was eagerly hoping to host 2016, had in fact begun planning, renovating and building. I was aware of limited local objections to moving the Fishmarket from Tsukiji, but most people seemed very keen and proud to think of hosting the Olympics.
This time round there may have been a little more reserve, but no less eagerness.
And now the media is full of joyful people expressing their delight; of beautiful, groomed, celebrity athletes adding to the excitement; and of course politicians saying how inspirational this will be for business (quoting those estimates for wealth and profit that we are all familiar with), as well as an opportunity to improve the health of the nation.
Due to anticipating the good news a little earlier, Tokyo is ahead of the game. Volunteers in great numbers will be chosen soon to begin their training, the possibility of sending some to Brazil as interns for 2016 is being discussed.
Olympic fever has already begun.
Cynically I cannot help wondering if the Disability Discrimination Act, recently approved here by parliament to come into effect from 2016, was in any way connected. Japan already has positive legislation proclaiming intent to create equality and quality of life for disabled people, it has a healthy culture of respect for all people and excellent manners governing all aspects of social interaction.
As a wheelborne visitor, I rejoice in the freedom I experience in Japan. For one month of the year I do not feel like a leper, I do not feel like a burden or an inconvenience to society. I do not feel that my wheels are more visible than myself. I do not feel disabled.
So, while this new law may be greeted with 'about time' approval by some commentators and activists, I would be very dismayed if Japan followed the British example of negative and patronising attitudes to disabled people.
No amount of legislation
will ever change attitudes;
will ever grow respect
in the heart of selfish.
No amount of
will ever overcome
the deviant, political
amount of equal
access will ever overcome
the hostility of a nation
bent on blaming
its ills on the very people
it grooms to be weak,
So don't pretend
to have the answer.
Do not export disaster
of crimes against
It's not that I think Japan has the equality/quality problem solved, more of a worry that there will be international pressure to move in unhelpful directions by some of the world's current bullies on the moral issues front.