Thursday, April 2, 2020

The cult of Olympism, revenge of Japan on history

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Analysis. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's obstinacy in luring local and international opinion of the illusion that the Olympic Games will be held at the end of July in Tokyo is surprising, when it had been clear for weeks that in Because of the pandemic, this displayed confidence was a denial of reality. The decision to postpone the Games for a year, announced on Wednesday March 24, put an end to this pretense.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Tokyo 2020 Olympics: from denial to postponement

The colossal financial stakes of the Olympic Games – and the losses caused by their postponement – are undoubtedly one of the reasons for Mr. Abe's refusal to give evidence until the International Olympic Committee forces his hand. Another factor in the background was the symbolic scaffolding of Japan’s cult of the Olympiads. "The neighborhood of the national stadium and the Meiji shrine (dedicated to the emperor in whose name modernization was carried out in the second part of the XIXe century and symbol of nationalism) says a lot about the historical interweaving of religion, politics and sport ", considers the philosopher Satoshi Ukai, translator of Jacques Derrida and Jean Genet.

Like all the countries hosting the Olympic Games, Japan aspires to extol national narcissism through a spectacle with worldwide distribution. But, in his case, the Olympiads have a particular meaning: they punctuated his ambition of international recognition in order to overcome the wounds of national pride inflicted by a West with which he had an ambivalent relationship, between fascination suffered and will to independence. The five Olympic rings certainly represent the five continents, but for a long time the "world" was reduced to the western colonial states posing as holders of the universal. A club of the powerful whose Japan has gradually crossed the door.

"Descendants of the spirit of Olympia"

With the Ottoman Empire, it was the first non-Western country to be interested in the Olympics. He sent only three athletes to the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, from which he brought home no medals. But he confirmed his presence on the world stage by this presence: in 1904, he had crushed the Russian squadron at Port Arthur. A victory over a "white" nation which made the Archipelago a power with which the West must now count.

At the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, where Japan won its first medals, the country was all the more welcomed because it had participated, alongside the members of the Entente, in the First World War and lived a period of political liberalization: the "democracy of Taisho" (1912-1926). A second westernization-modernization began, no longer under the authoritarian leadership of the state, but in response to new social demands. Japan was no longer "intimidated" by the West, and its modernity was no longer mimetic, but in step with that of the industrialized societies of the time.

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