The ‘Nolympians’ compete with the IOC | Human rights news
Long before Tokyo 2020 was lined with cost overruns, sexism scandals and fears that it could become a COVID-19 super-spreader event, anti-Olympic activists were calling it a disaster.
For this reason, one year before the originally planned opening of the games affected by the pandemic at the end of July 2020, anti-Olympic activists gathered in Japan for the first global summit of the “NOlympians”, as the opponents of the games are called.
The NO-Olympians’ Pow-Wow signaled that the once ad hoc localized opposition to Olympic events had become global.
“We should take the anti[Olympics] Movements [as] to be isolated and divided by nation and city, “said Hiroki Ogasawara, professor of sociology and cultural studies at the Japanese University of Kobe,” because the protest is already global and the Olympic Games inevitably involve global misconduct. “
Dozens of activists from previous (London, Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang, South Korea) and future (Paris and Los Angeles) host cities were joined by those in the Japanese capital who were preparing to apply from their cities, including Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
“That was a defining moment,” Jules Boykoff, participant and professor of politics and government at Pacific University in Oregon, USA, told Al Jazeera. What Boykoff previously called “a moment of movement” had blossomed into a transnational coalition with staying power.
Boykoff, an Olympian who has become a critic, says that because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is “a multibillion dollar giant,” opponents have recognized, “the only way to fight is with their dissenting opinion to become more mobile ”.
Japanese were lukewarm to the pandemic-hit Tokyo Games and held demonstrations themselves during the event. On the poster of the protester in the black shirt it says “Anti-Olympics”. [Kantaro Komiya/AP Photo]
Japan has hosted four Olympic events in 50 years, most of all Asian countries despite strong opposition because of the cost and its social and environmental impact [File: Robert F Butaky/AP Photo]
Founded in 1894, the IOC is a not-for-profit organization that serves as the governing body of the Olympic Committees in each of its member countries to distribute billions in revenue from broadcasting and marketing to sports development. The board consists of members of the global business elite.
In Asia, Japan has hosted most of the Olympic events – the Games, which began on July 23, were the fourth in 50 years.
While the 1964 Games were generally viewed positively – an example of the technological prowess and brilliant design of postwar Japan and its debut on the world stage – not everyone has such a rosy view of the later Olympics.
Of the two major anti-game groups spawned by Tokyo 2020, one is called Okotowa Link, which means “Olympic Disasters”.
Japanese activists had a variety of concerns about the event, from demolishing affordable homes to removing road bumps to converting the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market into a parking lot for the National Stadium.
At a time when activism is becoming more global and gaining momentum online – from the #MeToo movement to Fridays for Future and Black Lives Matter – it’s hard to remember the days when grassroots organizations were distributing leaflets .
So, Helen Jefferson Lenskyj and her peers at Bread Not Circuses began in the late 1980s, when Toronto battled first for the 1996 Games and then for the 2008 event. While her city’s repeated applications called for an ongoing campaign, Lenskyj notes how the anti-Olympic movement has grown since then.
“It’s definitely gotten stronger,” said Lenskyj, now Professor Emeritus of Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto. “With social media and the more effective use of the internet, the growing problem of huge debts and expensive venues, the legacy that was never realized, disillusionment grows.”
Canadian anti-game activists were the first to create the Olympic Games Poverty Torch Relay, which uses a toilet plunger to make the torch. And every year at the end of June, a NOlympics day was celebrated to spark resistance around the world.
There were protests against the Summer Games when they were held in Greece in 2004, with protesters concerned about security measures [File: Louisa Gouliamaki/EPA]
The human cost of the Games, including the massive disruption to local residents’ lives and increased police surveillance, is in stark contrast to the corporate interests of the Olympic boosters. Typically, it is the business and political elites who can benefit most from brand sponsorship, white elephant construction, and lucrative service contracts.
“I call this trickle-up economics,” said Boykoff. “It’s a huge economic juggernaut; the sport is irrelevant. “
In recent years, citizens have become more and more resistant to hosting the sporting spectacle, with some western countries putting the decision to the electorate in a referendum.
One by one, potential candidate cities were eliminated by “no” votes from Boston in the US to Krakow in Poland.
In the run-up to the IOC awarding the 2022 Winter Games, there were only two candidate cities left in 2015: Almaty and Beijing.
Authoritarian countries have long viewed the Games as a form of “soft power,” while the IOC has sought to shape the event as a force for good that transcends politics.
When Beijing awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics in 2001 despite concerns about China’s human rights situation, the IOC claimed that the hosts would usher in an era of greater freedom.
Seven years later, artist Ai Weiwei, the man who helped design the centerpiece of the Bird’s Nest Stadium, was persecuted by authorities for his political activism, and Beijing won its bid for the 2022 Winter Games three weeks after a nationwide human rights review and lawyers your Coworkers.
With less than seven months to go, Beijing’s mass incarceration of Uyghur Muslims and practices in Hong Kong are fueling calls for boycotts from Europe and North America.
Meanwhile, the dwindling number of cities ready to apply for the event has spurred the IOC to action. Your Agenda 2020 called for transparency, sustainability and flexibility. However, critics consider the organization incapable of real reform.
“The IOC has a democratic deficit,” said Boykoff, adding that it was ruled with “an iron fist.”
China is celebrating the hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, but calls for boycotts have risen in response to the raids on Xinjiang and Hong Kong [File: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo]
In response to the mounting backlash at the Olympics, the IOC has accelerated the process of naming host cities.
In an unprecedented move in 2017, the remaining candidates received a double award: the 2024 Summer Games in Paris and the 2028 in Los Angeles.
And just before the Tokyo Olympics began, the IOC announced the host for 2032 – Brisbane, Australia, the only contender. Previously, the host city was selected only seven years before the start of the games.
For now, activist outcry “NOlympics Everywhere” may seem like a long way off, but as memories of two weeks of sports spectacles begin to fade and Tokyo assesses the longer-term impact of the Games, it seems likely that the rumble of discontent that followed The IOC will only grow – as will the movement.
“The anti-Olympic campaign has had a significant impact on raising local residents’ awareness of what human rights are being violated and what they would have to suffer in order to have the Olympics,” said Lenskyj.