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Tokyo 2020: only as old as the medalists you field

by Amy Chavez

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was seen in the audience at the Sochi Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, allegedly taking notes on cocktail napkins. Japan’s leader has made it clear that he wants to create “a city that shines at the center of the world,” referring to Tokyo, the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics. While the PM’s economic reforms have become known as “Abenomics,” the Tokyo games are already being referred to in similar parlance as the Abe ‘Lympics. Having previously hosted the summer quadrennial in 1964, Tokyo will be the first Asian city to host an Olympiad twice.

Gleaned from the serviette notes, one journalist was able to decipher, among bleeding ink on damp pulp, the words “giant animal mascots!” Some people now fear that Japan’s cute animal characters, such as Hello Kitty and Doraemon, could experience unnatural growth spurts in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020. Let’s hope character goods don’t follow, or Japanese children could end up carrying giant pencil cases to school.

Yoichi Masuzoe, Tokyo’s controversial new governor, has pledged to make the Tokyo games the best in history. The 65-year-old, in an interview in his Tokyo home while watching the Sochi events on his equally aging TV, said, “I would like to show people from all over the world how attractive Tokyo is.” He then adjusted the rabbit-ear antennas to get a better picture. Masuzoe, known for his fear of menstruating women, said that Japan will welcome all female Olympic competitors who feel fit enough to compete, no matter what time of the month it is.

Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Summer ‘Lympics Organizing Committee, has admitted they need more women on the committee’s executive board. But reportedly, few women have wished to get involved with the group of “aging sexist men.”

The men on the committee have taken offense at the quote, claiming they aren’t really that old. Toshiro Muto, 70, is the CEO of Tokyo 2020. Tsunekazu Takeda, head of the Japanese ‘Lympic Committee, is only 66. Masuzoe is just one year younger, and Mr. Abe is a youthful 59. Mori, 76, who originally turned down the post on account of his advanced years, apparently reversed the aging process and accepted the position. Besides, he plays golf like someone 10 years younger.

The motto of the Tokyo games is “Discover Tomorrow,” which organizers hope will help distract sport fanatics from the reality of Japan being the fastest-aging country in the world. It is no coincidence that the third-oldest Olympian ever — Hiroshi Hoketsu, who competed in dressage at the 2012 London Olympics aged 71 — hails from the Land of the Rising Sun.

When asked how he will manage to project a youthful image of the games, Mori said the six-year lead-up would capitalize on the young Japanese athletes who medaled in Sochi: 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu, the first Japanese male to bag an Olympic gold medal in ice skating, and silver and bronze winners Taku Hiraoka, 18, and Ayumu Hirano, 15, the first Asians to take medals in an Olympic snowboarding event. Hirano is Japan’s youngest Olympian.

“We’re hoping to see a lot more peach fuzz participating in the upcoming Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro,” Mori said. “Yup, women too,” he added, after some prompting.

“The ‘Lympic Organizing Committee knows a lot about youth because all of us used to be young. We have all that experience behind us,” said Mori. “Besides, our average age is only 67, which is still younger than that Japanese dressage guy.”

How does Tokyo plan to entertain young fans who come to watch the sports extravaganza? Here are some highlights:

All young visitors to Tokyo will be encouraged get tattoos from the on-site tattoo dens that will be carving up “otattoos” (otaku tattoos) of favorite “idols” or anime and manga characters. Obsessive sports fans, or sports otaku, can look forward to the AKB48-style concept of “idols you can meet.” Special arrangements will allow ardent devotees to touch the hands of their favorite athletes just after they have received their medals. Visitors over 21 years of age can try gambling at the myriad pachinko parlors and cosplayers will be out and about helping tourists navigate the subway system and Japanese-style toilets.

Gundam statues will grace the Olympic Village and maid cafes will be available for athletes who have finished their events and want to let their hair down.

The main sponsor of the Tokyo games will be Tepco, whose slogan will be “Giving our Olympic athletes the energy they need.”

The XXXII Olympiad committee has incorporated some ideas from the Sochi games into plans for the Abe ‘Lympics. One is that of the matryoshka, or wooden nesting dolls, one of which was placed on the course in the snowboarding and slope-style skiing events. It is rumored the Tokyo games will use a giant Daruma doll at the track-and-field events, with competitors encouraged to “tickle the Daruma” for good luck.

The organizers’ goal for Tokyo is to achieve a warm ‘n’ cuddly Games. “Hug fests” among competitors — like those seen in the women’s snowboard competitions at Sochi — will be mandatory. All competitors, regardless of sexual orientation, will hug their teammates before and after each performance. For spectators, flash-mob hug sessions are encouraged.

Some pundits worry that the host nation’s people do not have the basic English skills to deal with foreigners. But our great leader seems confident: “We don’t think visitors will have a problem learning Japanese,” Abe said. “It’s all part of the ‘Cool Japan’ image.”

He revealed his plan to hand out free manga books to visitants that introduce basic Japanese expressions. “We expect that after two weeks in the country, tourists will be able to converse about the ‘Lympics in our native language at a viable level of proficiency,” he said.

The Japanese population will also be encouraged to speak better English by correcting flawed grammar. Instead of “I no speak English,” for example, they will be encouraged to say “I don’t speak English,” or perhaps even attempt more linguistically difficult expressions, such as “I’m sorry, my English is atrocious.” After all utterances, the organizing committee recommends either calling in a Japanese teacher who can take over or, if unavailable, running away from the tourist as fast as possible.

Another proposal is to hand out old-school index cards with English phrases that answer common questions such as “Where is the Sushi Roll Stadium?” so the locals can avoid having to speak English. This, it is hoped, will help Japanese people get over their fear of making pronunciation mistakes. There will also be a new-school app to download that learners can use to listen to the pronunciation of words such as “atrocious.”

I hope to see you at the 2020 Tokyo ‘Lympics! “Discover tomorrow,” because it has to better than today.

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