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Hi Blog. Just a follow-up on my Shingetsu News Agency column of this week. When I was talking about the roots of the Olympics, I made the case there that the Games are less about athleticism than national demonstrations of power, particularly in the vein of racial superiority and thoroughbred-ism. In my summary of their history, I wrote:
SNA: Thanks to my background in political science, I’m trained to view nationalism with a critical eye: How governments convince people to live, fight, and even sacrifice their lives for their country. The Olympics are rooted precisely in these attitudes, and forever filter athleticism through the lens of national representation and superiority.
Remember that the Olympics were first framed as a way for the ancient Greeks to assert their superiority over neighboring city-states.
When the Games were resuscitated by aristocrats in 1896, in spirit they were still grounded in contemporary attitudes equating national strength with physical strength. Thanks to the racialized social theories in currency at the time, including Social Darwinism and eugenics, the Games soon became a public demonstration of the social engineering of supermen, which depended on how racially “thoroughbred” an athlete and a society was. It’s not difficult to draw a straight line from the geneticist attitudes promoted by the prewar Olympics to The Final Solution.
Even in the postwar Games, despite all the emphasis on individual athleticism and sportsmanship, the legacy of national superiority still exists. You easily find it in the schlong-measuring national medal tallies, and the enormous pressure put on athletes to prove themselves worthy of all the national attention and hype they’re getting.
Japanese athletes in particular must get Gold (especially in sports Japan thinks it owns, such as judo or karate) or publicly apologize for taking Shameful Silver or Despicable Bronze. This culture of self-sacrifice for the sake of nationalism is one reason why, as I have written elsewhere, Japanese athletes live surprisingly shorter lives, and why I constantly wince at the nasty nationalistic coverage in NHK and Japan’s sports newspapers.
Full article at http://shingetsunewsagency.com/2021/08/16/visible-minorities-tokyo-2020-olympics-postmortem/
I want to highlight how one athlete, who won Silver for Japan in Surfing, decided to depict himself. Again, as I wrote for SNA above:
SNA: Kanoa Igarashi, US-born resident of Huntington Beach, CA, indicatively promotes himself on his Olympics website entry in classic Olympic “thoroughbred-ism”: “I have so much support here in the USA and America will always be part of who I am. But I’ve grown up with a lifestyle and in a generation where things can seem a bit borderless. And so representing Japan felt like a solid, comfortable decision. My blood is 100% Japanese. That’s something that you don’t change.”
His statement in context, courtesy of https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/surfing/athlete-profile-n1316618-igarashi-kanoa.htm#addInformation.
His bio in brief, courtesy of
COMMENT: Now that’s playing to type. Blood type, in fact. As I responded in my column:
SNA: Good for his bloodline, I guess. But for mongrel non-medalists like Osaka Naomi, as the New York Times noted, Japan’s social media pounced, contesting her Japanese language ability, her standing to represent Japan, and even her Japaneseness…
In sum, I wanted to highlight one of the main arguments of my column: how The Olympics also brings out racist attitudes not only in its governments but also in its athletes.
Again, you can self-identify with and play for whatever country will have you. But a person like this who has benefited from both systems does not deserve respect for this throwback-Eugenicist attitude, and it should be challenged appropriately in public. Doing so here. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.
UPDATE: According to the Japan Times, Igarashi faced online hate during the Olympics. While I feel for Igarashi’s situation when it comes to online hate and racism, he doesn’t seem to have reflected on how his express pure-blood-ism further encouraged by Japan’s blood-oriented nationalism and Olympic attitudes encourages those hateful and tribal attitudes as well. Excerpt from the JT article in Comments Section below.
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