Yesterday morning, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's first task was a 40 minute run through of the presentation he will be making before the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires (Link - J). Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki, whose presentation skills in English are non-existent, or at least were at the last Olympic get-together, is already in Argentina preparing for his part in the presentation. (Link - J)
Given Prime Minister Abe's still suspect constitution (the digestive system-related kind) his agenda this week is one to give anyone who gives a damn the jitters. Not only is the PM crowding his daily calendar right now with the groundwork for the fall legislative session, he is also attending the G-20 leaders summit in Moscow on the 5th. It is a long way from Moscow to Buenos Aires, even aboard a Self Defense Forces' 747 jumbo jet, just for the opportunity to stand and read, pronunciation and internal clock askew, off the teleprompter to the jaded and already spoken for delegates prior to the final host city vote on the 7th.
Abe's willingness making the trip, however, seems to have forced the hand of a beleaguered Tayyip Erdogan (Link). Turkey's prime minister probably feels he should probably be spending his time responding to internal dissent and coping with the ripple effects of the civil war in Syria, rather than jetting to the ends of the earth to plug Istanbul's host city bid.
Such decision are part of the responsibilities of leadership, or at least the keeping up of the appearances of leadership.
It will be of great interest to historians, picking their ways through the first eight months of the Abe II premiership, to find out how much Abe's actions or inactions have been influenced by the need to put the best face possible on Japan in the run up to the IOC vote. Have Abe and his friends toned down, delayed or foregone their potentially more provocative moves -- an Abe visit to Yasukuni, for example -- in order to create a positive atmosphere for Inose and the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee to work their public relations magic? My guess is probably, yes. Ken Belson's article on Inose (Link) must have stimulated the Tokyo Olympic bid committee into making frantic pleas to the Prime Minister's Residence to be proactive, thinking not just about international repercussions of any nationalist activity but the potential for even innocent mistakes to get blown out of proportion.
If such pleas for caution have kept a lid on the Abe Cabinet's potential for causing upset, then perhaps this whole Olympics/world peace talk is not all so much nonsense.
It also might mean that these past eight months have been the calm before the storm.
There is, or course, the inverse effect -- of perhaps too readily seeing a pre-Olympics conspiracy behind the government's post-election behavior, most prominently its seemingly months-too-late takeover of the cleanup at the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear power station. As yet, the main news outlets have shied away from making the connection between the government's crash program of facing up to the immense task of stabilizing Fukushima Dai'ichi and the IOC vote. The Asahi Shimbun seems to have crept out the farthest, liberally quoting those who say they see a government trying to keep a lid on the leaking storage tanks story in order to minimize the potential adverse impact on the Olympic bid. (Link)
Persons who would like to disparage the suppression-of-bad-news-in-order-not-upset-the-Olympic-vote claims, seeing in them violations of Hanlon's Razor, would find their task much easier if the head of Tokyo's bid committee would not take such actions as sending a special, last minute letters to each and every IOC member, explaining that despite what they may have heard about highly radioactive water leaking from storage tanks on the Fukushima Dai'ichi site, "Tokyo is safe." (Link and Link - J)
Japan-based foreign journalists have recently published a few local Olympics-related stories of interest.
Over at The Japan Times's YenForLiving blog, the team of Brasor and Tsukubu have taken a dispassionate look at the claims by bid supporters of a positive economic outcome from hosting the Olympics (Link) - which must be the first "the economics of the Olympics" essay I have ever read that does not mention the budgetary catastrophe wreaked on Montreal by the 1976 Summer event. For The Times of London Richard LLoyd Parry writes about the impossibility of holding the triathlon's swimming leg in the waters off of Odaiba unless a means is found to cleanse the water there of E. coli and other enteric-disease causing bacteria (Link - great, subdued headline). I am not sure as to where Parry is getting his numbers but even the easily searchable reports from 2010 studies (Link - J) seem to show post-rainstorm bacteria concentrations in Odaiba water at 100 times the permissible limit.
As one who used to swim at Odaiba and who two week ago was wading into the water at the Tokyo Metropolitan District's one swimming beach (warning at beach: "Do not dive into the water" - Link ) after a day of exceptionally heavy rain, I am at best agnostic on the coliform bacteria problem being a threat to health. To be honest, I was a heck of a lot more worried about the stingrays -- which I have seen in the waters off Odaiba.
Later - This post has been edited to restore lost text and links.
Later still -- An earlier version of the post misidentified the author of the E. coli article as David McNeill. The actual author is Richard Lloyd Parry. My apologies to both gentlemen.
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