28 April, Yoshiki Tanaka

文字数 4,213文字

The Olympics and the Coronavirus


Although it’s now nothing more than a distant memory, there was a time when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was the only subject on everyone’s lips. Now that the games have been postponed for another year, it seems that, in lieu of a gold medal, Japan has snagged the coronavirus. Granted, I was never particularly invested in the Olympics to begin with. Postponed or cancelled, it makes little difference to me. However, as part of the generation who experienced the previous Tokyo Olympics in real time, I am not entirely immune to the pangs of sentiment the event can inspire, for better or for worse.
  As a schoolboy in 1964, I witnessed most of that summer’s pivotal movements, from the torch relay to Čáslavská’s gymnastics, Geesink’s unprecedented jūdō triumph, and the magical performance by the Japanese women’s volleyball team, remembered in the popular consciousness as the Witches of the Orient. I was there in front of the TV, watching as Kōkichi Tsuburaya was outpaced with valor. I especially remember the entire student body’s collective delight when classes were cancelled, and we could instead assemble in the auditorium to watch the broadcast.
  Yet, the most memorable moment from those Olympics was neither the legendary performances nor the lauded victories. Rather, it was the closing ceremony. Come nightfall, the TV glowed, illuminated by a remarkably peculiar sight.
  As each country’s flagbearer appeared in the arena, the usual retinue of athletes was nowhere to be seen. No sooner had I leaned toward the screen in confusion, wondering what had gone awry, than the crowd erupted in rapturous cheers. A stream of athletes emerged from the stadium’s gates. Instead of forming orderly lines with their compatriots, the athletes intermingled en masse, jovially walking with arms around each other, hand-in-hand. Some hugged, others jumped, as cascading waves of mirthful laughter rippled across their ranks. Waving to the stands, they proceeded as a collective whole, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality. No sooner had the captivating ceremony begun than the flame was extinguished, along with the dream.
  For me, this was the greatest closing ceremony in Olympics history. No amount of expense or flashy production gimmicks could ever tug at my heartstrings in quite the same way. Given how the 2020 games already reeked of a particularly pungent nationalistic fervor, I don’t think I could have even brought myself to turn on the TV.
  As far as rat races for national prestige go, I would much rather Japan reach the finish line of this coronavirus marathon in record time. But those odds seem slim. While I appreciate the bitter struggle of our medical professionals, I can’t say the same for our politicians. Above all, I can’t agree with those calling for stringent restrictions and punitive fines in a time of crisis. Truth be told, I find the grassroots fascism of my fellow citizens far more unsettling than the coronavirus itself, and fear those who would unleash the full force of state power and mutual surveillance in the name of attaining national unity. The other day, someone phoned the police to report what else but a group of children playing peacefully in a park. Such news sends a chill down my spine. I don’t want to live in a society where neighbor informs on neighbor. No thanks.


Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Yoshiki Tanaka
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture, 1952. Graduated from Gakshuin University’s Graduate School of Humanities. Winner of the 3rd Gen’eijō New Face Award for

Midori

no

sōgen

ni

. . . . (On the green meadow) in 1978, the 19th Seiun Award for

Legend

of

the

Galactic

Heroes

in 1988, and the 22nd Utsunomiya Children’s Literature Award for

Rain

no

ryoshū

(The prisoner of the Rhine) in 2006. His other works include

Natsu

no

majutsu

(Summer magic),

The

Heroic

Legend

of

Arslan,

Sōryūden

(Sohryuden: Legend of the dragon kings),

Taitania

(Tytania),

Yakushiji

Ryōko

no

kaiki

jikenbo

(The strange case files of Ryōko Yakushiji), and

Gakuhiden

(The legend of Yue Fei).

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