TOPTokyo LifeNews & OpinionControversies Continue To Plague Tokyo 2020 With The Opening Ceremony Just Hours Away

Controversies Continue To Plague Tokyo 2020 With The Opening Ceremony Just Hours Away

Team competitions got underway at the Olympics this week, but it's non-sporting issues that still dominate the headlines

By Matthew Hernon

The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics begins at around 8pm tonight. In attendance will be IOC members, foreign dignitaries, diplomats and sponsors, but no fans. It’s not exactly the kind of celebration the country had in mind when it was named as host in 2013.

Given all the troubles surrounding the Games, organizers would have no doubt been hoping for a relatively stress-free week in the build-up to the opening ceremony. However, it’s proved anything but. As well as the resignation of a high-profile composer and creative director due to past misdemeanors, there was also an allegation of rape at the National Stadium and the brief disappearance of a Ugandan weightlifter. On top of all that, the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in and around the Olympic Village is growing daily.

Fortunately, there has been some good news. Japan’s softball team got off to a winning start against Australia. As did the men’s football team against South Africa, while Nadeshiko Japan earned a point against Canada with a late goal. In non-Olympic sporting news, Mongolian sumo wrestler Terunofuji was promoted to yokozuna. In Cannes meanwhile, Drive My Car became the first Japanese film to win a Best Screenplay award at the famous festival.

Composer Pulls Out of Opening Ceremony Following Revelations about Past Bullying 

On Monday Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada resigned from the creative team of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The 52-year-old had arranged a four-minute composition that was due to be played at the start of the event. He was also scheduled to be part of the Paralympic opening ceremony set to commence on August 24. The Flipper’s Guitar founder will no longer be involved in either following revelations about his bullying past. In an interview with Rockin’On Japan in 1994, he admitted to bullying classmates with disabilities. He subsequently apologized but proceeded to laugh. In a 1995 interview with Quick Japan, he gave more details about the bullying. He forced one pupil to eat excrement and locked another in a vaulting box. On Wednesday, creative director Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed from his role at the ceremony. Footage from a 1998 skit emerged that showed him making an anti-Semitic joke.

Ugandan Athlete Found in Nagoya 

Last Friday Ugandan athlete Julius Ssekitoleko was reported missing in Japan. The 20-year-old weightlifter arrived in the country last month but then failed to qualify for the Olympics. He was due to return to his home country on July 20 with his coach. However, a note was found in his hotel room in Izumisano, Osaka, saying that he wanted to work here as life in Uganda was hard. Ssekitoleko purchased a Shinkansen ticket for Nagoya, which boasts the second largest Ugandan community in Japan. On Monday, he was spotted on a surveillance camera at Nagoya Station. The following day, Osaka prefectural police confirmed that a man carrying the weightlifter’s ID card had been found in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. “He has been located and is with the (unspecified) authorities in the office in Izumisano,” said UOC’s Secretary General, Beatrice Ayikoru. 

Olympic Worker Arrested for Alleged Rape at National Stadium 

A 30-year-old university student from Uzbekistan was arrested last Sunday after being accused of rape by a fellow staff member at the Olympic Stadium. The incident was said to have taken place last Friday around 9pm following the rehearsal of the opening ceremony. The accused was in the stadium to provide meals to the press. He has denied the accusation, saying the woman did not resist. The suspect arrived in Japan in 2014. He is currently on leave of absence from a university in Aichi Prefecture. It’s not the first Olympic-related arrest. Last week two British and two American electricians who came to work at the Games were arrested on suspicion of using cocaine. Drinking in Roppongi on July 2, one of the suspects trespassed at a nearby apartment. Police hurried to the scene and a subsequent drug test revealed cocaine use. All four denied the charges. 

Japan’s Softball Team Off to a Flying Start 

With the Olympic problems continuing to dominate headlines, it would be easy to forget that some events have already started. On Wednesday, Yukiko Ueno, Japan’s hero from the Beijing Games, delivered the opening pitch of Tokyo 2020 with the action taking place around 300km away from the capital in Fukushima. It was a good day for the home team who defeated 2008 bronze medalists Australia 8-1 in a convincing display. In football, Nadeshiko Japan fought back from 1-0 down to earn a creditable draw with Canada. Arsenal forward Mana Iwabuchi grabbed the equalizer with a beautiful finish in the 84th minute. USA, meanwhile, suffered a shock 3-0 loss at the hands of Sweden. It ended a run of 44 games unbeaten for the pre-tournament favorites. In the men’s competition, Takefusa Kubo scored the only goal as Japan beat South Africa 1-0. 

Terunofuji Becomes First Sumo Wrestler Promoted to Yokozuna in Reiwa Era

On Wednesday, Terunofuji became the first sumo wrestler to be promoted to yokozuna in the Reiwa Era. The fifth Mongolian to rise to the highest rank in the sport, he has fought back bravely from various injuries, particularly to his knees. In 2018, he dropped down to the second lowest division of jonidan. Only one other wrestler — Mienoumi in 1979 — has been promoted to yokozuna after losing the rank of ozeki. On Sunday, American golfer Collin Morikawa shot a bogey-free final round to win the Open. The 24-year-old, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, became the first player to win two different majors on his debut. In basketball, Japan caused an upset with an 81-75 win over France. Rui Hachimura, who will carry the flag during the opening ceremony, scored 19 points. The host’s first game at the Olympics is against Spain.

Drive My Car Takes Home Screenplay Award in Cannes 

Drive My Car became the first ever Japanese film to win the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes International Film Festival last Saturday. The movie was directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi while Takamasa Oe was responsible for the screenplay. Based on Haruki Murakami’s short novel of the same name, the three-hour story centers around Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a grieving director and stage actor struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife. He finds solace in the shape of his driver Misaki (Toko Miura). Earlier this year, Hamaguchi received the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for his film Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy at the Berlin International Film Festival. The big winner in Cannes was Titane which picked up the Palme D’Or. Directed by Julia Ducournau, it’s about a female killer who has sex with cars after surviving a childhood crash.

*Feature image by Anna Petek