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Japan’s Leaders Worry the Olympics Could Hurt Their Global Brand. They’re Wrong.
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Japan’s Leaders Worry the Olympics Could Hurt Their Global Brand. They’re Wrong.

Tobias Harris writes about why the challenges with the latest Olympics won't hurt Japan's role on the world stage.

On Jan. 7, 2013, less than two weeks after Shinzo Abe regained Japan’s premiership, Tokyo submitted its bid to bring the Summer Olympics to the Japanese capital in 2020. Abe’s government immediately embraced the Olympics as part of its program to revitalize a country struggling to emerge from two decades of economic stagnation and declining influence. Under Abe, Japan would show the world that it could pick itself up, open its doors and — despite anxieties about demographics and growth — remain a respected world leader, a cultural powerhouse and a technological innovator.

However, when the Tokyo Olympics finally opened on Friday — a year later than planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic — the games will not be the showcase for the new Japan that Abe had hoped for. With Japan’s borders mostly closed and Tokyo under a state of emergency amid another spike in cases, athletes will compete in empty venues. The resignations of the president of the organizing committee and several creative directors for the opening ceremony, to say nothing of the vast cost overruns, point to rampant mismanagement by the organizers. And there are widespread concerns that the games could lead to not only an increase in Covid-19 cases locally but also become a global “superspreader” event. Abe, no longer prime minister, did not even attend the opening ceremony. His successor, Yoshihide Suga, will be gritting his teeth for the duration, hoping to fulfill his promise of a “safe and secure” games without taking serious political fallout.

The above excerpt was originally published in Politico Magazine. Click here to view the full article.

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Tobias Harris

Former Senior Fellow