As I write this the IOC has still not released who will get the games (Update: Rio!), but we do know this – it won’t be Tokyo. I was watching Fuji TV when the interpreter spoke the words “Tokyo has lost” (東京が落選しました) — the TV anchors fell silent for about 15 seconds, save for a few sighs.
For my own completely selfish reasons, I am happy to avoid the inconvenience of over a million extra people in the city during the spectacle.
On the other hand, I can’t deny a tinge of longing and disappointment that Tokyo won’t get its chance to shine. Whatever the practical and logical concerns (and there are many), Tokyo is a beautiful and complicated city that the world overlooks to its detriment. And it’s true that if 2016 Olympics offered Tokyo just 1/10th the cachet, prestige and aura of achievement and arrival that the Beijing Olympics had in China, there could be a credible case for wanting them in Tokyo too. Setting aside all issues of cost and objectivity, the propaganda value of a truly successful and memorable Olympics is very real.
But Tokyo already had its Beijing 2008 moment back in 1964. If the Olympics can bring any real, lasting impact, it’s because they underscore and promote underlying historical trends. If Tokyo had the Olympics in 2016, it wouldn’t shake the “Japan is dying” narrative – it would just be a perfunctory, lackluster games all but forgotten a decade later, like Atlanta in 1996. At this point the overall message of “Japan as ecological technology superpower” is just not getting through, and the IOC judges apparently were not convinced. If Rio gets it they will fit this model.
So while Hatoyama made an eleventh-hour decision to show up in Denmark and give a speech, I don’t think the concept of another Tokyo Olympics jived with the spirit of the DPJ’s push to shift the nation away from relying on ever-more construction and development as a source of prosperity. Better that Japan tidy set its house in order before winning another chance to showcase itself to the world.