From a sporting perspective, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics proved a huge success for Japan. The country finished third in the table, winning a record 27 gold medals, just one fewer than they managed in the previous three Games combined. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga lauded the athletes while also thanking the public for its cooperation and understanding. On top of that, organizers and volunteers were widely praised for a job well-done under extremely difficult circumstances. This included one in particular named Tiana who helped get gold medal winner Hansle Parchment to the stadium on time.
With no crowds, it wasn’t the spectacle or carnival atmosphere people were hoping for yet wasn’t the disaster that many predicted either. For the government, though, it has long been a poisoned chalice and the surge in Covid-19 cases while events were taking place added to the frustrations of locals. So, just how much of a negative effect will the Olympics have on the prime minister and his administration? With an election due this autumn, we’ll soon find out.
Also in this week’s news roundup, we look at the report into the death of Sri Lankan woman Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali. The Japan immigration agency admitted she was mistreated at the Nagoya facility and as a result four officials were disciplined. In Tokyo, there was disturbing knife attack on a commuter train. The perpetrator said he wanted to “kill happy women.” Fortunately, nobody died. On the island of Naoshima, meanwhile, Yayoi Kusama’s famous “Yellow Pumpkin” sculpture was blown away by Typhoon Lupit. It was eventually rescued and now attempts are being made to repair it.
Support for Suga’s Cabinet Continues to Drop
According to a recent survey by the Asahi Shimbun, 56 percent of respondents felt it was the right decision to hold the Olympic Games. That compared with 32 percent who believed it was the wrong thing to do. While these figures may sound positive for the government, other results from the survey proved less encouraging. The approval rating for Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet fell to 28 percent. That’s a three percent drop from the last time it was conducted in mid-July. The lowest approval rating for Shinzo Abe’s cabinet during his second stint as prime minister was 29 percent. That was recorded in May of last year. Suga’s term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ends on September 30. The lower house lawmakers’ term in office expires on October 21, which means we can expect an election soon.
The End of the Pandemic Olympics
The Tokyo 2020 Games concluded on Sunday with a subdued Closing Ceremony. The lack of spectators unquestionably ruined the atmosphere, but when it came to the actual sporting events, this was an Olympics that was as intense and absorbing as ever. From the see-sawing rivalry between Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus in the pool to the superhuman 400m hurdles performance by Norway’s Karsten Warholm in the 400m hurdles, there were many standout moments. The most heartwarming arguably came in the high jump with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi sharing the gold. American swimmer Caeleb Dressel topped the podium most times while Australia’s Emma McKeon picked up most medals, yet it was Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah who was probably the star of the show with three sprint golds adding to her two from Rio. For the hosts, 58 medals, including 27 golds, was a tremendous effort.
Jamaican Gold Medal-Winning Hurdler Rescued by a Volunteer
One of the nicest stories to emerge from the Olympics came from 110m hurdler Hansle Parchment. The Jamaican pipped American favorite Grant Holloway to win gold, yet had it not been for the help of a volunteer named Tiana he might not have even made the race. Taking to social media, the athlete said he got on the wrong coach and ended up at what he thought was the aquatics center. A bus back to the village and then another one to the stadium would have left him struggling to make the final. “I saw this volunteer and I had to beg, ‘cause of course she’s not allowed to do much and she actually gave me some money to take one of the taxis. And that’s how I was able to get to the warm-up in time and had enough time to compete,” he said.
Immigration Officials Reprimanded for Death of Wishma Sandamali
A report by Japan’s immigration agency has revealed that staff at the Nagoya detention center where Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali died, knew her condition was worsening yet failed to provide the appropriate medical care for her. The Sri Lankan went to the police in August 2020 to report domestic abuse but was then detained for overstaying her visa. She passed away on March 6 this year after complaining about stomach pains. She had previously been refused release for hospital treatment. According to the report, immigration officers felt she was exaggerating her illness to secure the release. The bureau’s director, deputy director and two supervisors were reprimanded for their actions. “The Nagoya bureau at that time lacked awareness of its responsibility to ensure the safety of people (in the facility) and respectfully engage with them,” said Shoko Sasaki, head of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.
Knife-Wielding Man Injures 10 People on a Train
A man was charged with attempted murder last weekend after stabbing a university student with a knife on a train. Nine other passengers were injured in the attack that took place on the Odakyu Electric Railway line on August 6. Yusuke Tsushima, 36, had been suspected of shoplifting earlier in the day. He told the police he’d considered going back to kill the woman in the shop but it had already closed. Instead, he turned his attention to commuters, focusing on one passenger in particular. She was in a serious condition after the attack. The others injured in the rampage were either stabbed or hit by the assailant. “I’ve been wanting to kill happy looking women for the past six years. Anyone would’ve been okay,” the police quoted him as saying. “I thought I could kill many people as there’s no space to flee on a train,” he added.
Typhoon Blows Yayoi Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin Away
Yayoi Kusama’s iconic ‘yellow pumpkin’ first arrived at the pier of Shikoku’s art island of Naoshima in 1994. Since then, it has been the region’s premier attraction. In fact, it’s so important that if a storm approaches, people are dispatched to take it to a shelter. Unfortunately, Typhoon Lupit caught the area by surprise and there was no time to remove the landmark. At around 10:30am on Monday, it was dislodged and swept out to sea before being thrashed around by the waves. Luckily, staff were able to retrieve the installation, though it was badly damaged. The hope is that it’s not beyond repair. “We’re currently checking its broken condition and are reviewing if it can be restored to its original state or whether it should be recreated anew,” said a representative from Benesse Holdings Inc. Visitors to Naoshima can still see Kusama’s “red pumpkin.”
*Feature image by Anna Petek