Tuesday, September 03, 2013

All For The Olympics

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.


Anonymous said...

The Edogawa riverbed is contaminated, flushing radioactive cesium into Tokyo Bay...according to several reports one year ago. According to a broadcast by NHK, based on a University study, most of the Tokyo Bay bottom will be contaminated with cesium by 2014. The cesium is washed down from the mountains by rain, and increased in the Edogawa from 2011 to 2012...and in Tokyo Bay. No other news on this since last year...."all for the Olympics."

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Contamination is a matter of degree, dispersal, deposition and kind. While it is true that rain will transport the surface cesium into streambed and riverbeds, leading to watercourses having higher levels of radioactivity as compared to the rest of the environment,

1) the amount of radionucleides deposited in the watersheds of rivers emptying into Tokyo Bay has never been considered a significant hazard to health

2) only a trace of the cesium 134, which still makes up about 20% of the current mass of radioactive matter, will remain. Most of it will have not undergone beta decay

3) while soluble in water, cesium is heavy, meaning it does not stay in water column very long. It would be a contaminant mostly of mud

4) Like potassium, cesium does not stay in the body long. Given the medium rate of decay of cesium 137, only a trace of the amount injested or absorbed would actually undergoes decay while still in the body.

Ἀντισθένης said...

Oh my, do not use FACTS in your argument, 'MTC'. It only enrages the nutters.

That said, even if the IOC chooses elsewhere in fear of public hysteria affecting their haul of lucre from the freak show, I will be pleased. The Olympics destroys economies at worst; bleeds money from the public to private interests at best.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Sorry, 2) in my comment should have read:

"Most of it will have undergone beta decay."

The "not" should not be there.

D. H. said...

I have to wonder about the seriousness of the e-coli contamination in the waters off Odaiba. People are gather clams there every morning. I do not see them eat them, but I assume that is what they are doing when they take them home. One woman is there every time I visit. Others are wading and wind-boarding in those waters.

But I ain't a doctor nor a scientist, so I won't be testing that.

Anonymous said...

Here is the report by NHK and the "Nutters" of Kinki and Kyoto Universities. We are talking about Cesium 137 and it will only increase in the Bay over the years.

The "Nutty" Professors at Kyoto and Kinki did the tests, based on science. See for yourself:


According to this report of over one year ago, the cesium should have increased this year, and will the next year as well.

Why have there have been no follow-on reports? Olympics?

Anonymous said...

It really is about the Olympics...

東京湾 再来年4000ベクレルに
5月26日 4時41分 NHK
東京湾 再来年4000ベクレルに



Anonymous said...

The more you look at it...didn't Gov Inose tell a whopper about Tokyo being as safe as London, Paris or New York! Talk about "stamina" from Unagi! Edogawa River too!

And it will be worse next year...if you can believe in Kyoto University and Kinki University.

But hey, they're "nutters"...

< 2013年6月7日 20:04 >







MTC said...

Anonymous -

Thank you for the texts of the NHK reports. It is really helpful for the discussion.

My points, such as they were, remain unchallenged. The Tokyo University simulation finds a build up of Cesium 137 in the mud at the bottom of the rivers, where it will stay, popping off at a moderate rate.

As for the Kinki University study, the test subjects, wild unagi, are long-lived, top-of-the-food chain predators with a preference for bottom-dwelling prey. It would be perverse if the research did not find higher concentrations of Cesium 137.

As for the safety of unagi destined for human consumption, the findings are meaningless, as market-bound unagi are raised in enclosures and fed processed foods.

Anonymous said...

You might want to read this line again...8 tons of eel a year harvested from the Edogawa river, and served to the Tokyo populace.


My point in this exchange is that Inose and Abe mislead the IOC on radiation in Tokyo.

The Edogawa is contaminated and has Unagi above the government threshold for cesium contamination. And 8 tons of eel annually from the Edogawa, no pun intended, is not small potatoes.

Anyway, the Olympic site includes both the Edogawa and Tokyo Bay, and according to those "nutty" Professors of Kinki and Kyodo, the contamination will only become worse next year (4,000 bq/kg)as the rain continues to cause cesium run-off from the mountains, down into the Kanto Plain and Edogawa, polluting Tokyo Bay.

While some people may not have a problem with radioactive mud on the bottom of the Edogawa River and Tokyo Bay, perhaps the world's athletes will have a different take once they find out the "Olympic Village" is only a few kilometers away.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

I did read the article. You in your comment condemned unagi in general. You did not zero in on the very tiny amount of wild caught eel.

As for finding, the national standard for eel is 100 becquerels per kilogram. The fished eel(s) in question clocked in at 140 bequerels per kilogram.

Neither number tells the consumer anything about how much eel she would have to consume for the cesium in it to be a potential hazard to health. Considering the rarity of wild caught eel, my guess is that it would be an amount that would beyond the limits of anyone's wallet, much less her digestive system.

As per the Todai simulation -- and it is a simulation, not a measurement -- I cannot get excited about 4000 Bqs of cesium per kilogram of mud. A 10 year old human being is around 3500 Bqs, mostly from the Potassium 40 in the electrochemical switches of the body. A kilogram of granite clocks in at 1000 Bqs per kilogram -- and is much more dangerous as the major culprit is radon, which is inhaled.

Let us assume that the water the athletes will be swimming in will be at least 2 meters in depth. That amount of water should provide more than enough shielding to absorb the beta emission. The gamma emission I will concede.

A specialist will know better.