Think about it. The next three Olympic Games will be held in Asia:
2018 Winter Olympics: PyeongChang, South Korea
2020 Summer Olympics: Tokyo, Japan
2022 Winter Olympics: Beijing, China
In the history of the modern Olympiad, the majority of host cities selected for both Summer and Olympic Games have been in Europe. In the period of 1896 to 1952, only three of the first 20 Olympiads were held outside Europe, the others in the USA. From 1956 to 2016, the diversity of host cities improved, with only 50% of the Olympiads held in Europe.
But for the first time, three Olympiads in a row will be held in Asia. In the world of diplomacy, that smells like opportunity. So when the culture ministers of Japan, China and South Korea met in Kyoto for their annual meeting of minds in August, 2017, they announced that they will organize joint events to spread the depth and beauty of East Asian culture within the three countries in connection to the upcoming Olympiads in Asia.
While the specifics of the plan are to be determined by an “experts’ body” to be set up, it was agreed that five cities in each of the three countries would be identified as locales for these cultural exhibitions and exchanges. In fact, according to this Japan Today article, this is an expansion of an initiative called the Culture Cities of East Asia Program, that had started in 2014. China’s Changsha and South Korea’s Daegu are already hosting such events. Next year, Japan’s Kanazawa will be host.
Efforts to strengthen copyright protections for cultural products
Continued trilateral dialogue on preserving the intangible cultural heritage of all three countries.
Support of UNESCO’s International Research Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, which works to protect, preserve and promote intangible culture such as traditional music, dance, performing arts and craftsmanship.
Examples of “intangible cultural heritage” in Japan would be noh, washoku (traditional Japanese food), and washi (traditional hand-made paper).
With so much geo-political tension in the region, exacerbated by the sabre-rattling of North Korea, there is a belief that diplomacy, through the promotion of the respective nations’ cultural heritage, can promote the cause of peace, according to Kyoto mayor, Daisaku Kadokawa.
The East Asian region shares a long history of exchanges. Here in Kyoto, you can see and feel the cultural elements of the region. The power of culture can help bring the region together, and lead to peace.
It was the summer of 1964 and Singapore was in crisis.
Singapore’s leader, Lee Kuan Yew, had brokered a deal with the British Government and the leadership of Malaya to be included in a nation called Malaysia, established in 1963. This was not a match made in heaven. Racial tensions were part and parcel of the daily lives in the region between Singapore, which was a mixture of Indian, Malay and Chinese, but had a predominant population of ethnic Chinese, and the rest of the Malaya Federation, which was primarily Bumiputra and Islamic.
In July and September, Singapore felt the political tension born of the delicate balancing act that brought Singapore and Malaya together, and at times, the tension boiled over. Race riots broke out where shophouses were burned down, police and military were called out to restore order and enforce curfews, and people were beaten and killed.
This is the atmosphere in which athletes in Malaysia and Singapore were preparing for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Canagsabai Kunalan was a promising 21-year-old sprinter, talent spotted only a year before by the Malaysia track coach, Tan Eng Yoon. After a successful sprinting debut in 1963, Tan believed Kunalan was ready for the Tokyo Olympics, and recommended him for the 4X100 relay team, along with Mazland Hamzah, John Daukom, and Mani Jegathesan.
But the make-up of the 4X100 relay team did not sit well with Wong Fey Wan. Another talented sprinter, Wong defended his record, and called out Kunalan publicly in the press:
I beat Kunalan in the 100 m finals in the national championships in which I finished second to Jegathesan, and I beat him again in the Government Services Meet in the 100 m final on Saturday in which I finished third…. I am willing to race against Kunalan again to prove I am the better man over 100 m. If I am wrong I will quit athletics.
Coach Tan did favor Kunalan, perhaps for his work ethic, perhaps for the belief that Kunalan was stronger around the curves and a better choice as back up for the relays. Maybe Wong did not have the political support as he was self-taught and did not have the benefit of a coach lobbying his case as Tan did for Kunalan. Maybe race was influential. As explained through Kunalan’s state of mind at the time in the biography, “C. Kunalan – Singapore’s Greatest Track and Field Athlete”, Kunalan was unhappy.
Whatever the true reason for Wong’s exclusion – be it sporting or political, this incident affected Kunalan, who regarded this as “one of the saddest moments” of his running career. He never knew for sure whether he had been chosen on the basis of merit, but he wished that Wong had been chosen instead, knowing how much Wong had been looking forward to competing at the Olympic Games.
It was Kunalan instead who went to Tokyo. Just three days before his 22nd birthday, the Malaysian 4×100 team finished last in their round one heat, and that was that.
While Kunalan had no control over the make-up of the 4×100 Malaysian relay team, during a period of racial and political strife in his country, he did indeed have control over more important, personal decisions – with whom he would marry.
Teammates in track, Kunalan first met Chong Yoong Yin, captain of the Raffles Girls School track team, and a member of the Malaysia national track team. They had track in common, but to their parents, little else. Kunalan was ethnic Indian and was brought up in the Hindu religion. When Kunalan had returned from the Tokyo Olympics and his parents realized that his relationship with the ethnic Chinese woman, Yoong Yin, was still intact, they gave their son an ultimatum: “leave that Chinese girl or never return home again.”
Kunalan walked out.
Yoong Yin received the same ultimatum from her father and her uncle. And she too left home, joining her mother, who was estranged from her father.
Distraught after being shunned by their own families, they struggled momentarily, wondering what would happen. But Kunalan in the end was resolved. “We’ll have our own friends who will accept us.”
Engaged in October 1965, with a wedding date set for October 1966, the parents of Kunalan and Yoong Yin eventually saw that there was no fighting the bond between the two. Kunalan’s father surprised his son with a visit, and said he would bless the union, but only if Yoong Yin would take on an Indian name and convert to Hinduism. Fortunately, that was not a problem for Yoong Yin, and the two sprinters were married in a Hindi ceremony. Subsequently a Chinese wedding dinner was held by Yoong Yin’s mother.
Fifty-two years later, Kunalan and Yoong Yin are still happily married. And Kunalan proudly proclaims that diversity and the need to be inclusive of all races and nationalities is vital to world peace. “I am not nationalistic,” he told a Singaporean magazine. “I am more of an internationalist.”
His children, a blend of Indian and Chinese DNA and heritage, have lived their parents’ creed, marrying members of other nationalities. Kunalan is proud of to be an inter-racial grandparent.
He remembers 1964. He recalls seeing the worst in the race riots of Singapore, and the best in the gathering of the world’s best athletes in Tokyo. And he believes that we are capable, through sports, to co-exist in peace and love.
One thing certain about the dates of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: July 24 to August 9, 2020. It will be hot and muggy!
One less obvious thing recently occurred to me about the dates. The final week of the Tokyo Olympics falls on the 75th anniversaries of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Was it intended to bring attention to the worst days in Japanese history, during the proudest days of the nation’s history?
Of course it was. It’s impossible to imagine that no one in the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee or the IOC noticed that the closing ceremonies of the Olympics would take place on the day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, thus expediting the eventual end of the war six days later.
On the contrary, the organizers must have thought that the final day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be an opportunity to solemnly (and hopefully tastefully) implore the world that peace and love trump war and hate.
Such a closing ceremony would provide a poetic bookend to the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Only 19 years removed from the end of WWW II, it was a 19-year-old student from Waseda University named Yoshinori Sakai who carried the sacred flame up the National Stadium’s steps to light the Olympic cauldron on October 10, 1964.
Sakai was born in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the very day that the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on Sakai’s hometown.
The Olympics left behind a new subway line extension, high-speed bus service and an urban jewel: a renovated port area filled with food stands, musicians and safe street life in a city rife with crime. These probably would not have been built without the prestige of the Olympics. But the games also imposed deadlines and drove up the price. A state auditor’s report said the $3-billion subway was overbilled by 25 per cent.
But generally, the bad according to that article outweighed the good.
The Olympics left a half-dozen vacant sports arenas in the Olympic Park and 3,600 empty apartments in the boarded-up Olympic Village. Deodoro, a major complex of venues in the impoverished north, is shuttered behind iron gates.
A $20-million golf course is struggling to find players and financing. A few dozen were on the course on a recent, sunny Saturday. The clubhouse is mostly unfurnished, and it costs non-Brazilians 560 reals ($180) for 18 holes and a cart.
Since the Olympics, the bankrupt state of Rio de Janeiro has ceased major efforts to clean the bay, its unwelcome stench often drifting along the highway from the international airport. “I think it’s gotten worse,” Brazil’s gold-medal sailor Kahena Kunze said in a recent interview. “There was always floating trash, but I see more and more. It’s no use hiding the trash because it comes back. I figured it would get worse because I haven’t seen anything concrete being done.”
Some of the politicians behind the Olympics have been accused of graft, and organizers still owe creditors about $30 million to 40 million. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who wept when Rio was awarded the games, was convicted last month on corruption charges and faces a 9 1/2-year prison term. He is appealing. Former Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes , the local moving force behind the Olympics, is being investigated for allegedly accepting at least 15 million reals ($5 million) in payments to facilitate construction projects tied to the games. He denies wrongdoing.
The Rio Olympic organizers are still struggling under the weight of an approximate USD40 million debt. When the organizers appealed to the IOC for relief, the IOC replied no, saying “it had already contributed a record $1.53 billion to the Rio Olympics.
Fortunately, the Brazilian government was able to find more sympathetic ears in the British government. It was announced on August 1, 2017 that the British government would donate GBP80 million (over USD100 million) to Brazil, the ninth largest economy, to help “reduce poverty and fund economic development.”
Of course, it’s not all bad news.
At least Ryan Lochte, the American swimmer who lied about being robbed at gunpoint at a Rio gas station, was actually cleared last month of charges that he falsely communicated a crime to authorities.
The International Olympic Committee announced on Monday, July 31, 2017, that Los Angeles, California will be the host to the 2028 Summer Olympics. They are also the second city to be awarded the Olympics three times. London, which last hosted in 2012, also held the Olympics in 1908 and 1948. When Paris is given the official nod for 2020, the City of Lights will be the third city with the right to host three Olympiads.
The announcement on Monday was no surprise as the IOC has been quite public about its attempt to get Paris and LA to agree to hosting either 2024 and 2028. This allows the IOC to skip a (potentially painful) selection cycle that would have started in 2021. This deal buys the IOC time to persuade candidate cities in the future that the Olympics doesn’t have to be such a tremendous burden on the host nation.
What’s interesting about Los Angeles is that in all three cases – 1932, 1984, 2028 – they won the bid without competition.
Paris insisted on 2024, and explained that the land reserved for the new Olympic Village would not be available if they had to wait for 2028. LA would have 2028 if they wanted it. The IOC sweetened the pot financially, and LA willingly sunk their hands in it.
In 1978, two years removed from the financial debacle that was the Montreal Olympics, and only six years after the terror of the Munich Olympics, only two cities were in the hunt for 1984 – LA and Tehran. Tehran was likely feeling the rumbles of the Iranian Revolution, which exploded a year later, so pulled out of its bid, leaving Los Angeles as the only choice.
In 1932, it is said, that newly appointed IOC member representing the United States, William May Garland, attended the IOC’s twenty first session in Rome in 1923, and swept the committee off its feet. Garland was a wealthy Californian real estate magnate who saw the Olympics in Los Angeles as drama worthy of Hollywood. According to the book The Games: A Global History of the Olympics, by David Goldblatt, Garland “pitched” the Olympics like a movie script. Goldberg cites the Official Report to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as the kind of rhetoric that Garland may have used:
An excited whisper runs like a flash across the stadium.
And then hush.
A voice that fills every corner of the vast bowl breaks forth from the huge electoral announcer.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Vice-President of the United States is arriving to officially open the Games.’
The Vic-President arrives at his box and for the first time is clearly identified to the audience. He waves his hand to acknowledge a renewed outburst of cheers.
His gesture brings a hush to the babble of noises.
The time-table on the daily programme is hastily consulted. What comes next?
Garland sat at the intersection of realtors, oil companies and movie magnates, who, as Goldblatt writes, “in the early twentieth century, as the region’s great historian, Carey McWilliams, put it, ‘began to organize Southern California as one of the greatest promotions the world has ever known’, selling the California good life, the new Mediterranean, paradise on the Pacific. In his letters and interviews with the press, Garland often referred to the athletes as actors and the Olympics as a celebration or a show, the sport itself seemingly ancillary.”
Not as catchy as Death and Taxes, or Love and Marriage – but they go together like a horse and carriage.
In fact, novelists swarm to politics and corruption like moths to flames. Staring into that flickering fire is former Olympian, Ron Barak, who is about to publish a novel, The Amendment Killer.
Barak was a member of the US Men’s Gymnastics team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. And while he was also an NCAA champion with the gymnastics team at the University of Southern California, his studies at USC were arguably more critical to his long-term career: a BS in physics and a Juris Doctor of Law.
Barak became a lawyer in the 1970s, among other things, representing athletes as their agent, including football greats Bubba Smith and Ahmad Rashad. Most of Barak’s career was devoted to real estate law, and witnessed first-hand the rise of Japan’s economic influence in the 1980s when the yen overpowered the dollar and Japanese corporations bought up landmark properties and brands overseas.
But as Barak eventually understood, he had a knack for storytelling, and answered a dare from some friends to write a novel. His first novel was a “whodunnit” murder mystery set in D. C. – as Barak puts it, “a story of a political system gone awry and those who felt compelled to fix it.”
Barak’s latest political thriller, The Amendment Killer, hits bookstores in November. Let’s ask Barak a few questions about the book and the journey to his third career (writing following sports first and law second).
What is your novel about?
Modern day Washington, D.C, misconduct on the part of our political representatives has never been worse. In this backdrop, frustrated citizens form a tax-exempt watchdog foundation, The National Organization For Political Integrity (NoPoli), to remind our governmental leaders that they are there to serve, not to be served.
In short order, the membership ranks of NoPoli swells to hundreds of thousands of Americans disgusted by our abhorrent government. NoPoli sponsors and convenes a Constitutional Convention at which a 28th Amendment to the Constitution is adopted to criminalize political abuse and corruption.
Offended by the sudden demise of their many perks and the threat of incarceration, Congress challenges the Amendment and asks the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate it on an expedited basis. Because of the fundamental importance of the Amendment, the Supreme Court agrees to hear and decide the case in one televised week.
As the nine justices take the bench to hear oral argument, the justice expected to cast the deciding vote, Arnold Hirschfeld, receives a text that begins “We have your granddaughter. Here’s what you need to do.” Hirschfeld is warned that his granddaughter will be killed by the end of the one week expedited process if the Amendment is not defeated by the Court—or if word even gets out that his granddaughter is being held to control the outcome of the case.
What is the relevance of your novel to today?
I write first and foremost to entertain my readers, but also to “blur the line between reality and fiction.” In the case of The Amendment Killer, there are at least three such relevant intersections of reality and fiction:
First, the novel is particularly timely (“ripped from the headlines” some might say), addressing our highly dysfunctional U.S. government. It does this through my hypothetical 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution criminalizing abuse and corruption on the part of our political representatives, which Congress asks the Supreme Court to invalidate. Using my legal background, as well as my political knowledge, I actually drafted such an amendment on my website.
Second, I introduced diabetes into the novel because, like my young protagonist, Cassie, 30 million Americans today are diabetic. That’s one in ten Americans. That’s epidemic and another highly relevant issue today.
Third, there are serious ethical issues in the story. Cassie’s grandfather, the Supreme Court justice holding the swing vote in the case, must decide whether he can sacrifice the best interests of the country, and his duty as a Supreme Court justice, to save his granddaughter’s life. Are the best interests of the country worth his young granddaughter’s life?
Tell me about the character Cassie and why you wanted to create a character who has diabetes?
Part of the reason is that I wanted to draw attention to a disease that is at epidemic levels in the country (and the world) today. It is a subject I know well because I’m diabetic. My wife, Barbie, and I have also committed 50% of the proceeds of The Amendment Killer to diabetes research and education. There are millions in the world today who are diabetic but don’t know it—until it is too late for them. That’s tragic because diabetes can be intelligently well managed today. We have Olympic gold medalists who are diabetic. We have NFL and NBA athletes who are diabetic. Diabetes, if well managed, does not at all have to be a death sentence. Several prominent national diabetes organizations are solidly behind The Amendment Killer because they think Cassie is a poster child for diabetic youngsters. And The Amendment Killer is coming out in November, which is National Diabetes Month!
What inspired you to become a novelist? Were there indications as a youth that you had a storytelling gene?
I wrote my first novel on a dare from some friends. Being somewhat competitive, a trait perhaps attributed to my gymnastics days, I couldn’t turn my back on the challenge. As I wrote that first novel, I discovered that I loved it. I’ve worked hard ever since to learn how to write properly so that I could develop and continue this new pursuit. Some have commented that I simply transitioned from physical gymnastics to mental gymnastics. I don’t know about that, but writing is definitely easier on the joints than physical gymnastics, especially at my age today. I don’t know if I had a storytelling gene, but I actually might have. As a little kid, my dad used to tell stories to my younger brother and me. He had an incredible imagination and a genuine patience in his storytelling. Maybe some of that rubbed off on me because I have discovered how much fun I find it to weave a story. It presents an opportunity to create mystery but to inject humor at the same time. That’s a mix I really enjoy.
What writers have inspired you? Why?
The list is long. I love to read and have for years. I read mostly fiction, but I do occasionally read some non-fiction too. I read to be entertained. Perhaps that’s why I write to entertain. Examples in no particular order are Ian Fleming (James Bond novels, I’ve read every one), John Grisham (I’ve read probably about half of his), Michael Connelly (I’ve read most of his), Lee Child (Jack Reacher novels, I’ve read most of them), Daniel Silva (I’ve read most of his), David Baldacci (I’ve read most of his), Vince Flynn (read most of his too), Robert North Patterson (read most of his), Scott Turow (I’ve read most of his), John Lescroart (I’ve read most of his), Greg Isles (I’ve read most of his). I have also read a lot of Stephen King. And I’ve read a miscellany of lesser known novelists. I’m sure I’ve missed some. As for why, these authors have a few things in common: most of all, they can tell a great story. Beyond that, they keep you guessing and turning the pages.
How has being a 1964 Tokyo Olympian impacted your career?
In countless ways. First, training brought discipline and commitment into my life at a young age, when I didn’t otherwise exhibit much of that and neither did my friends. Second, it was an absolute joy. Third, it provided great education; I got to travel around the world, and I learned how to handle celebrity, not to let it get out of proportion. Fourth, it was a great source of self-confidence and self-esteem; it helped me know that if I put my mind to something, and worked hard at it, I could usually accomplish it. Fifth, along the way, it has opened doors that might not otherwise have opened. (Note: I used numbers here, but I am not prioritizing these things and don’t think I could.) So, in terms of my career, while I was at the near top of my law school class, my Olympic career got me more job offers than might otherwise have been the case, a combination of the celebrity and the maturity and people skills. It didn’t make me a better lawyer, but strong work habits learned in sport probably did.
Stay tuned for the November 1 launch of The Amendment Killer!
As he wrote in his autobiography, Run, Bullet, Run, “What did a twenty-one-year-old kid who was trying to win a gold medal at the Olympics know about what was happening in the Soviet Union? I mean, if the experts in the CIA couldn’t see Khrushchev’s downfall coming, what was I supposed to know about it?”
Hayes hit the nail on the head with his response to the press: “I’m just going to answer your question once. I’m here to win a gold medal and not to talk about politics.”
Hayes, like the best high performance athletes, was focused on his mission.Gold in the 100-meter finals. Gold in the 4×100-meter relays.
And yet….there’s always something.
It is hours before the finals of the 100-meter dash on October 15. Hayes is sitting in his room in the Olympic Village with the hopes of keeping himself calm. His roommate, long jumper Ralph Boston, is lying on his bed, keeping to himself.
Then walks in Joe Frazier, boxing heavyweight contender, who bounced into Hayes’ room a “bundle of nerves, but especially that day because he had an important boxing match coming up. He started throwing punches at my head. I asked him to leave me alone, so he went over to Ralph’s bed and threw jabs up to within an inch or two of Ralph’s head.”
Needless, to say, the eventual gold medal and heavyweight champion of the world was a distraction. Not getting the reaction he wanted, Frazier began rummaging Hayes’ bag for gum, stuck it in his mouth, and left.
Flash forward to the National Stadium and the fastest runners in the world are prepping for the 100-meter finals. Hayes gets to the track and opens his bag to pull out his shoes. To his surprise, he finds only his right shoe. He dumps the contents of his bag and can’t find the left shoe. “The biggest race of my life, and I was missing a shoe.”
But who walks by but middle distance runner and teammate, Tom Farrell. Hayes has relatively small feet and is hoping against hope that Farrell happens to have the same size shoes – size eight. So when Farrell replied to Hayes’ sudden and unusual question, he said “Well, I wear size eight.”
Not only did Farrell wear the same size shoe, he also wore the Adidas 100 shoe that Hayes’ did. Now, properly attired for battle, Hayes lined up.
And then he learned that Hayes was placed in lane 1. Lane 1 is the innermost lane on the track, and the cinder track had been chopped up by some three dozen race walkers for three circles before heading out on the rest of their 20K journey. Don’t the fastest runners in the semis get the choice middle lanes? Not at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where sprinters were assigned lanes randomly.
So Hayes set up his blocks. His biggest rivals, Cuban Enrique Figuerola and Canadian Harry Jerome were in the less chewed up lanes 3 and 5. As he got set at his mark, the muscular Hayes was a tightly wound coil ready to spring, ticked off about his lane placement. “I was totally intense, the more so because iw as angry about having to run in the inside lane. Finally, I picked out a spot straight ahead of me down the track and vowed that I was going to get there before anyone else did.”
He did. Convincingly. Watch the video from the 3’ 55” mark to watch the black and white footage of the race. The angle is long enough to show the entire field. And you can see Hayes dominating the field from start to finish. Fastest Man in the World. By far.
Gold medal in hand, Hayes returned to his room. Hidden under his bedspread was the missing shoe. The next time he saw Joe Frazier, he shouted “’Don’t you ever go in my bag again!’ That was about the only time I ever saw Joe Frazier apologetic.”
Bob Hayes – fastest man in the world – bringing new meaning to the phrase “if the shoe fits, wear it.”