Japan’s Olympic-Sized Problem | The New Yorker

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Japan has a long and complicated relationship with the Olympics. Tokyo’s successful bid for the 1940 Summer Games was the first such campaign by a non-Western nation, but Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 compelled the government to forfeit its hard-won hosting privileges to the runner-up city of Helsinki. (The Games were eventually cancelled altogether, after the outbreak of the Second World War.) The 1964 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, represented a triumphant comeback for a country that in wartime defeat had fallen to the status of a “fourth-rate nation,” as General Douglas MacArthur put it just days after Japan’s surrender. Now, in 2021, the Tokyo Olympics teeter on the brink once again. The cause, this time, isn’t war or geopolitics. It is the collective voice of Japanese citizens, energized in their demands that the Games be cancelled.

Their problem isn’t with the Olympics per se, although local commentators have decried the vast sums…

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