The madness around the Olympics

Destroying culture

is one thing but ruining young

lives is another


I happened to catch a lovely  Studio Ghibli film (scripted/directed by Hayao Miyazaki and Goro Miyazaki respectively, with Keiko Niwa a co-writer) the other day – From up on Poppy Hill.   I don’t usually talk about anime on this blog but Studio Ghibli is allowed.   Like most of these animations, it has a social message.  In this case, it was about destruction of old buildings to make way for new developments.  Set in Yokohama, 1963 a building used by students’ extracurricular activities, including the school newspaper, is about to be knocked down to make way for developments for the Olympics the following year so the students, including Umi and Shun, the two who fall in love but have a complicated history to deal with, try to prevent it.

Many places are guilty of this but  displacing people, temporarily or permanently, is much worse.   Beijing destroyed much of its old quarters for the 2008 games and presumably other cities have done the same (including Tokyo) but Barcelona is said to have sent all its homeless off down to Madrid in 1992 (bet Madrid loved that) and South Korea did a lot worse in 1988 – if a report that has re-emerged lately is anything go by – when the ruling party decided homeless people were more of a stain than they liked so homeless women, men and children (the children were mostly orphans) were sent to institutions run by prominent companies where they were used as slave labour day and night and subjected to unimaginable abuse.  This actually started as early as the mid-1970s but was allowed continue until well after 1988.

South Korea have already been given the Winter Olympics for 2018  (and it’s not like they’d lose it for something that happened in the past) and it’s a mostly different place than it was back then, politically and socially, which is why the present government is trying to pretend it never happened (and I’m sure President Park wants to disassociate herself from her father’s involvement also) but the truth will come out someday.

It’s definitely interesting what governments do to their own cultural entities (but worse their own people) to attract these games, but it’s not generally as tragic as that.  I like watching the Summer Olympic Games but it’s shocking to see the lengths some countries, even not so well-off ones, will go to to clinch the hosting rights and what they get away with even once they have obtained the hosting ‘honours’ of an event that celebrates sport and sportsmanship but is not always remembered for either of those.  Also, in this 2016, other events in Brazil are going to eclipse the Olympics in Rio I’m sure, the deadly Zika virus being the most significant one (who cares about sports when newborn babies suffer like that. if they even survive in the womb?) and the current political situation being another.  They’re barely ready for it as it is.












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