Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Sports and International Politics – The Olympics in Tokyo

The 2020 Olympics and Paralympic games were postponed for the first time in history due to the coronavirus. But, Japan is committed to the games in the summer of 2021. It is a powerful reminder of the importance countries attach to hosting and participating in international sporting events. 

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies presented a conversation on value, importance and impact of the Olympics and international sports on foreign policy. Leading foreign policy experts from the Korbel School and from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan will provide analyses on what the games mean for countries, athletes and the world. The program will be moderated by Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center.

Tokyo, Japan | Getty Images

Professor Koji Murata – Professor of political science at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan

  • The 1940 Olympics in Tokyo were cancelled because of WWII. Later, Japan hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics. The Olympics totally changed Tokyo and it became a modern city.
  • Fifty-six percent of Japanese respondents are opposed to Tokyo’s Olympics and 36 percent said they should be cancelled. Only 9 percent think they should be held. If they’re cancelled, $45 billion will be lost, while $20 billion will be lost if held without any audience and $14 billion if they are grossly simplified.
  • Elections in Japan will be held this fall after the Olympics. If the Olympics are successful, national sentiment will be increased and Prime Minister Suga will be able to maintain his position and cabinet.
  • Two concerns remain: How many countries will attend, and how the Japanese government will organize the Olympics for Japanese society.

Professor Timothy Sisk – Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver and Director of the Institute for Comparative and Regional Studies at the school

  • Issues in the news today regarding EU sanctions against China bring up the issue of participation with regard to Beijing’s winter Olympics in 2022.
  • Should athletes be held hostage to international politics? The ancient Greeks had a truce around the Olympic spirit. The International Olympic Committee Rule 50 states that sports and politics are separate.
  • If the voices of a Beijing boycott succeed, it puts the Olympics in jeopardy for the long-term.
  • The United Nations and international development organizations see sports as a lever. From the IOC perspective, they are building a tolerant society around the world — using “sport diplomacy” to bridge international rivalries.
  • The Tokyo Games are seen as a “coming out” from the pandemic. The Chinese had offered to vaccinate athletes, but it wanted to use a vaccine China prefers. Vaccines will not be mandatory, but uncertainty exists around select groups of athletes having access to vaccines. 
  • In the same way that we saw our political conventions go online successfully, televising the Olympics and moving to a remote approach through technology may provide a good viewing experience. 

Professor Sisk used an extensive PowerPoint on the many aspects of politics and sports, especially the Olympics, studied by academics, including international, diplomatic, social psychological, sociological and commercial.

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