National

We'll all be losers in 2020, anti-Olympic activists say

Tokyo Olympics to benefit a few at expense of many, anti-games activists say

by Ryusei Takahashi

Staff Writer

Activists opposed to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games say the events will hurt individuals and businesses through high costs and disruption, and will provide only fleeting gains for a small number of people in the political, economic and media elite.

The anti-games organizations that spoke to reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan Tuesday include Hangorin no kai, a Japan-based activist group, and NOlympics LA, a coalition of over 25 organizations in California opposed to the Olympic Games.

In a statement Tuesday, Hangorin no kai argued that the Tokyo Olympics will be held “in the middle of a dangerously hot summer” and could harm the health of athletes, spectators and volunteers.

It added, the event will “violate human rights” through disruptions to public transportation and the displacement of homeless people. Moreover, wood used to build the main stadium may be illegally logged from rainforests.

“You don’t see poor and working folks getting together and saying, let’s bid on the Olympics, this is going to help us,” said Jules Boykoff, a former professional soccer player who has researched the effect that the tournament has on host cities.

“It’s going to be a short, short, short term infusion of money into a small, small, small political and geographical space.”

Boykoff went on to claim that the Olympic Games almost always lead to overspending, displacement, the militarization of the police, corruption and to greenwashing — a term that refers to do-gooder work carried out for the sake of appearance and not for substantial change.

Efforts to reform the Olympics have been made but with few results, according to Boykoff. If someone were to seek reform now, he said, they should start with the Olympic Village which in the past was built under the premise that the buildings would be repurposed as affordable housing for local residents after the games.

“In each of our cities, the Olympics don’t cause these problems, but they directly exacerbate all of them,” said Annie Orchier, an organizing member with NOlympics LA who spoke during the news conference on Tuesday. “And in [Los Angeles], we have many problems that demand our city’s resources and attention, and that should take priority over a bloated spectacle like the Olympics.”

Orchier, a Los Angeles resident living in a predominantly working-class immigrant community, pointed to the LA 1984 Olympic Games as an example of how the international event leads to the exploitation of locals.

“It’s important to understand the actual reality that a lot of children are facing in LA,” she said. “I guarantee you that they would choose being able to stay in their homes and being able to live with their families, and not living under constant threat of displacement, whether it’s in the form of being deported or evicted, than they would the opportunity to maybe see an athlete.”

“The Olympic Games are not for them,” she added. “They will not be invited. Their families can’t afford the tickets.”

Los Angeles will be hosting the 2028 Olympic Games. Orchier counts the athletes among the many victims of the Olympic Games as well, pointing to Larry Nassar, whose crimes were the basis of the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal in 2016.

“We’ve seen that reform has failed everywhere that it’s been tried. What has worked, in many cities, in an increasing number of cities, is rejection, is people coming together and saying no,” Orchier said. “To us, saying no is the most realistic plan because that’s the only thing that’s worked.”

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