Saturday, September 07, 2013

Forget About Weimar

Today is the big day. The peculiar menagerie of humankind known as the International Olympic Committee will gather in a single room in Buenos Aires to select, in what is a frankly bizarre and fraught election, the winner of the title of the most convincingly mad town on Earth: the city to be shackled with the hosting of the 2020 Olympics.

How we or anyone else should care about this contest or the Olympics themselves, considering the history of the IOC's looking away or actively courting strongmen governments, how much the Olympics usually costs the citizens of the host city, how juiced up and strung out the athletes are and how little the Olympics deters us poor East African Plains Apes from killing each other -- which was the point of the whole shebang -- I do not know.

There is a special twist in today's pitting of Team Japan against Team Turkey, however. Unlikely as it may seem, the country that Japanese revisionists and arch-conservatives look to for answers, where they turn to when they need hints, is not, as Finance Minister Aso Taro indicated, Weimar Germany. The country Japan's most patriotic patriots really love is Turkey.

Yes, Turkey: a country with its own culture, with a strong military and a strong sense of historical mission. A problematic U.S. ally that says no to the U.S. at crucial times -- most prominently the refusal to allow an invasion force to pass through Turkey in the Iraq War. A country so tightly wound up it is engaged in a bitter territorial dispute with a treaty ally, clinging to Northern Cyprus of when all logic argues for a settlement, ignoring pressures from both the U.S. and the EU in the process. A country that despite being a royal pain can still twist the U.S. Congress around its finger -- successfully squelching successive congressional resolutions condemning the Armenian genocide -- a sharp contrast to the government of Japan, which despite spending tens of thousands of dollars per month in fees to Washington insiders and lobbyists, failed to squelch the comfort women resolution.

That the prime minister who has to lead the final charge against the Turks today is Abe Shinzo, a revisionist of the first rank and the prime minister at the time of the passage of the comfort women resolution, is for me the highest irony. If Tokyo were not in competition, Abe and his friends would all be Fools for Istanbul.

That being said, I do hope Tokyo wins today's election. For only one reason, too: if there is a single municipality on the planet capable of absorbing the cost of an Olympics, it is the Tokyo Metropolitan District.

We shall see if the IOC members agree.

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