US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

Members of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee must be pulling their hair out.

On December 5, the IOC banned the Russia national team from the upcoming winter games. In reaction to losing representatives from one of the biggest and best national teams, president of the organizing committee, Lee Hee-beom, was quoted as saying, he didn’t expect the IOC “to go this far.”

Then on December 8, U. N. Ambassador from the United States, Nikki Haley, apparently raised the possibility of Team USA declining their invitation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics due to fears that North Korea will create such an environment of uncertainty about safety that Americans would not be safe in South Korea.

Haley’s comments prompted perceived backtracking by officials as White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quoted as saying that “no official decision has been made” about America not going to PyeongChang.

What’s interesting is how the press kind of over-reacted to Haley’s comments, in my view, reading a bit too much into the tea leaves. According to SB Nation, Haley’s quote was actually a very indirect reference to the Olympics.

Haley saying that U.S. involvement is an “open question” was part of a larger quote — one that could hint at the topic never being raised in the first place.

“There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the US citizens in the area?”

By saying “I have not heard anything about that” Haley’s answer seems to imply that no discussion is taking place on whether the U.S. will skip the games. Her saying it’s an “open question” is making the rounds, however, and that’s what people are picking up on.

Earlier in the month, National Security Advisor to the US government, H. R. McMaster said, “Yes” to the question if Americans should feel safe about going to the Winter Olympics in Korea next year. But one word alone from McMaster will not diminish the fear.

McMaster tweet

In recent months, France, Austria and Germany have also expressed concerns about safety in Korea, and raised the possibility of not going to the Winter Games in February. And with Russia out and America hinting at an exit as well, the PyeongChang is looking, quite possibly, at winter of discontent.

1956 Olympics in Stockholm equestrian events

The Stockholm Olympics were held in July, 1912, the fifth Olympiad of the modern era.

But there was also a Stockholm Olympics in June, 1956, and only equestrian events were held at this particular event. Why? Because the actual host of the 1956 Olympiad was Melbourne, and Australia is famous for its tight quarantine control, a custom that goes back decades.

According to Wikipedia, Australia “had a strict six-month pre-shipment quarantine on horses,” and authorities insisted from 1953 that they would not allow horses enter Australia, even for the Olympics, which were to be held four months later, from November 22 to December 8. So, in 1954, the IOC decided that instead of cancelling the equestrian events, they moved them to Stockholm, Sweden instead.

As a result, the 1956 Olympiad was the first and last to be held in two different hemispheres in the same year, and 1956 saw posters that featured two different cities. The one above is the equestrian part of the 1956 Olympics in Stockholm, while the one below is the standard poster for the Melbourne Games.

1956 Melbourne Olympics

Interestingly, Sweden won gold in half of the equestrian events: individual dressage, team dressage and individual eventing. One might think home field advantage made the difference. Maybe it did, although Sweden dominated the equestrian events at the 1952 Summer Olympics in neighboring Helsinki, Finland.

As is explained in the book, Success and Failure of Countries at the Olympic Games, by Danyel Reiche, success in equestrian events is directly correlated to a nation’s GDP – “Out of the 419 Olympic medals, 329 (78.5%) in equestrian were won by wealthy countries with a GDP above US$30,000.” In addition, Reiche points out that in the case of Sweden, “equestrian sports is a ‘folk sport’,” which may explain why Stockholm was selected as the venue on such short notice.

僕が若く、今よりずっと若かった頃は

誰かの助けを必要とする事なんて何もなかった

でもいつしかそんな日々は流れ、僕は自信を失ってしまった

気が付けば僕の考えは変わり、そしてその扉を開けたんだ

Help! By John Lennon and Paul McCartney

 

1964年、日本は若かった。今よりも遥かに若かった。活気に溢れ、建物は新しく、近代的な国。世界がオリンピックを通して目にする事になるその国は、友好的で誇り高く、思いやりがあり、高い技術力を持ち、そして陽気であった。

1964年、ザ・ビートルズはアメリカを席巻する。彼らの前途は、そしてどこまでも続くその成功は、誰からの助けも必要としていなかった。彼らの記者会見からもわかる事がだが、彼らの宿泊先での悪ふざけ、エド・サリバンショーへの出演や、ワシントンDC・フロリダへの旅といったリバプールから来たこの4人の若者は、アメリカ人が一緒に街へ繰り出したいと願う友の様な存在であった。ロン・ハワード監督の映画、「The Eight days a Week」に映るのは、ジョン、ジョージ、ポール、そしてリンゴの4人が、共に過ごす時間を心から楽しんでいる姿である。

the-beatles-landing-at-haneda
The Beatles Landing at Haneda Airport

 

私がこの映画を観たのは、つい先週の事だ。その映画が良作なのか駄作なのかはさておき、ハワード監督はザ・ビートルズとその音楽に徹底的にこだわっていた。筋金入りのビートルズファンとしてみれば、鑑賞中は終始顔がほころんでしまう。作品の中で、活動の前半期にあたる1964年に焦点をあてた辺りは、彼らの愉快さをそのまま体現させたようなザ・ビートルズのポートレートとなっている。

ザ・ビートルズは、なにもアメリカでだけ時間を費やしていたわけではない。結論から言うと、彼らが交わしたレコード契約の報酬は決して十分なものではなく、自らツアーに出て、彼らが本来受け取るに相応しい金額を、自分達で稼がなければならなかった。1964年2月、彼らはアメリカで初公演を行い、その年の半ばには、デンマーク、オランダ、香港、オーストラリア、そしてニュージーランドを巡る27日間のツアーを開催。このツアーで彼らは計37公演を行った。そして8月にはアメリカに戻り、23都市30公演を決行。彼らは行く先々で、ファンに揉みくちゃにされるのである。

 

 the-beatles-ascending-the-stage-at-the-budokan

 著明な作家マルコム・グラッドウェルは、ロン・フォワード監督の作品の中で、ザ・ビートルズとは、この才能あふれる4人の人気が、新しいグローバルな10代文化の波に乗って起こした社会現象であると話している。1964年の10月、世界中のオリンピック選手が東京に集結した際、そのほとんどの選手が10代またはそれに近い年齢層であったため、ザ・ビートルズを知っているのはもちろんの事、彼らの歌もよく歌われていた。

 1964年、ブルガリアの走り幅跳び選手として東京オリンピックに参加していたダイアナ・ヨーゴバは、私に宛てた手紙の中でこう話している。きつい練習の合間に取る休憩時、彼女は女子寮の中にあったミュージックホールへ行き、好きな音楽を聴いた。彼女のお気に入りの一つが「With the Beatles」というアルバムで、これは1963年11月に発売されたものであった。傍らで行われている生け花レッスンを横目で見ながら、そこから漂う花の香りを楽しみつつ、彼女はお気に入りの曲を聴いた。All My Loving, Please Mister Postman, Hold me Tight, I Wanna Be Your Man.

 アダ・コック、オランダの水泳選手で1964年東京オリンピック100mバタフライと4×100mメドレーにて、銀メダルを2つ獲得した選手だが、彼女もまたビートルズファンの一人である。女子寮で彼女が私に話したのは、オランダ代表選手とオーストラリア代表選手は、メダルを獲得した際に、とりわけ騒々しいパーティーを開いていたそうだ。彼らはビートルズを歌いながら、夜通し祝っていたという。

 しかしだ・・・いつまでもいいことばかりではない・・・。

 1964年の東京オリンピックは、最後の純真な大会だと考えられている。最後の清廉潔白なるオリンピック。警備が最重要課題に上がる事もなければ、ドーピングが流行っていたわけでもない。スポンサーへのワイロの支払が、堂々と行われていたわけではない。皆が楽しい時間を過ごしていた。

 しかし地政学的な情勢が、そして社会の奥底でうごめく何かが、少しずつ明るみになろうとしていた。1968年メキシコオリンピックで、開会式直前に犠牲者数百人にも及ぶ大虐殺が行われ、1972年ミュンヘンオリンピックの選手村では、パレスチナのテロリストによって、11人のイスラエル人が殺害されている。世界はオリンピックを歓喜と純真から、冷笑と憂いに変えてしまった。

でもいつしかそんな日々は流れ、僕は自信を失ってしまった

1966年、ビートルズは初来日し、6月30日と7月1日に計4公演を行う事になった。1964年10月、オリンピック参加の為に来日した外国人選手たちがそうであった様に、彼らもまた手厚い歓迎を受けた。彼らをよく知らない人たちから見れば、きっと世界一の有名人が、日本国民から最大級のもてなしを受けていると思ったであろう。しかし、ホワード監督の作品によれば、どうやらそうでもなかったようだ。

オリンピックに間に合うように建設された日本武道館で、ビートルズはミュージシャンとして初めて公演を行う事になっていた。しかし、右派の人たちからみれば、そもそも武道館は武道家達のものであり、そこに外国人のミュージシャンが突然やってきて音楽を演奏する・・・武道館が乗っ取られるのではないか・・・そんな思いから、彼らの事を快く思っていなかった。公演はビートルズマニアの絶叫の中、無事に幕を閉じたのだが、そこには厳戒な警備と、滞在中は十分に気を付けるようにと、ビートルズにも警告が出されていた。

security-at-the-budokan-for-the-beatles
Security at the Budokan

 

1960年代後半は、オリンピックにとっても、ビートルズにとっても、そして私たちにとっても、試練の時となった純真な時代は終わったのだ。

For English Version of The Beatles Eight Days a Week: The Fab Four and the Olympics in 1964, Transitioning from Joy and Purity to Cynicism and Insecurity

Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in Manhattan
Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in Manhattan_Reuters

On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, Sayfullo Saipov rented a truck in Passaic, New Jersey, and less than an hour later around 3pm was barreling down the scenic Hudson River Bike Path, mowing down runners, pedestrians and bikers alike. Victims and fatalities were found at different points along this 10-block killing spree, finally ending when his truck crashed into a school bus parked outside Stuyvesant High School.

Saipov was gunned down and captured by police who happened to be in that area investigating another incident. By the time the day ended, 6 people were killed on the spot, with two more dying later in the day.

This was the worst terrorist attack on New York City since September 11, 2001.

I feel pained at the loss of life and the inability to make sense of the murderous actions of this terrorist in my home town of New York, the frustration heightened by the fact that Saipov was apprehended outside my high school alma mater. Stuyvesant was only four blocks from the World Trade Towers, and thus ended up serving as a triage center for those injured and dying after the 9/11 attacks. On Tuesday, it served yet again as a backdrop to incomprehensible hatred.

A few weeks ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published their 2017 Safe Cities Index. In the dimension of “Personal Security”, which reflects the level of urban crime, violence or the likelihood of terrorism, New York City ranked 25th out of 60 cities surveyed. After seeing citizens run down on a bike path on a sunny afternoon, one might wonder why that ranking isn’t worse.

terror lower west side Stuyvesant

But on the whole, when EIU looks at all factors of security relevant to big cities, including digital, health and infrastructure safety, New York City ranks fourth safest in the world for cities with populations of 15 million or more.

At the top of the list, as the safest of the biggest cities, is Tokyo. In fact, Tokyo continues as the safest city in the world, maintaining its EIU reign since 2015. With the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the public and private sectors in Japan are both working on measures to improve security, particularly in regards to digital security. While bombs and gun attacks are concerns, even in super safe Japan, great attention is being paid to ensuring Japan’s power grids, transportation systems, and digital platforms are not compromised now, or doing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Japanese are highly detail oriented and biased towards checking and re-checking for points of weakness and flaw, which is something I and many others can take comfort from if we dare to think about how creative and diabolical terrorist and crime organizations can be.

And yet, how do you protect against someone renting a truck and plowing into a crowd?

anti terror drill in Tokyo
A police officer practices disposing of a bag supposedly containing an explosive during an antiterror drill at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo on Monday. Photo: KYODO

On September 25, police ran a simulation based on a scenario – what if terrorists planted a sarin gas bomb in an office building during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

About a thousand people were involved in this massive drill to see whether anti-terrorist plans on paper have any founding in reality. The drill was held not far from where the new national Olympic stadium is being built in Tokyo. Some 800 people were evacuated from the area and a bomb disposal team, using a robotic arm, successfully removed a bag that was said to hold a bomb.

These kinds of drills are important to gauging feasibility of anti-terrorist plans and readiness of relevant security and safety groups. But when it comes to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, which is to commence on February 9, there are nations that are beginning to think no anti-terrorist plans or level of readiness of security personnel that will comfort them.

Thanks to the belligerent talk and the test launches of ballistic missiles by the North Korean government in recent months, France and Austria are saying they may turn down their invitation to the upcoming Winter Games, as quoted here.

  • We will never put our team in danger. If it gets worse and we do not have their security confirmed, our French team will stay here. – Laura Flessel, Sports Minister of France.
  • If the situation gets worse and the security of the athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea. – Karl Stoss, the head of Austrian Olympic Committee.

Germany is also reportedly mulling a decision to not send their athletes to South Korea.