Sept 2021

Olympic mood boost

As Bill Emmott noted in his article about the Olympics (‘Epic spectacle in troubled times’, August 2021), the Games took place at a time when the Covid situation in Japan was already very severe. This led the Japanese government to decide that most of the events had to be held without spectators. 

Personally, I was very disappointed when I received an email from the organisers that my ticket to watch a track and field event was no longer valid.  

However, watching the televised opening ceremony, which Mr Emmott described in his article, changed my feeling entirely. I was so excited to see athletes from over 200 countries marching into the stadium. Finally, I was able to feel that the Olympics had really begun in Japan. During the tournament, I was moved by a variety of fantastic performances by the athletes. 

I would like to send my sincere appreciation to all athletes who decided to join Tokyo 2020 and gave many viewers a lot of excitement and positive feeling in such a difficult time. I hope the event in Japan will come to be regarded as one of the highlights of their sporting careers. 

Takahiro Uehara 

Shizuoka, Japan  

Japan’s post-Olympic challenges

I echo Bill Emmott’s article (‘Epic Spectacle in Troubled Times, August 2021) that the Tokyo Olympics’ 2020 Opening Ceremony was a mixture of solemnity, respect and celebration. The Games’ slogan, ‘Diversity and Inclusion’, was reflected in terms of race, gender and nationality, as embodied by Osaka Naomi lighting the flame. The elements of recovery efforts for the 2011 Tohoku disaster were also evident.  From this perspective, it was a success. 

I was invited by BBC Radio 5 to comment on the first hour of the ceremony. As I witnessed it live online, I found myself more entertained and impressed than I had anticipated.  Japan somehow pulled it off despite scandals, controversies, and fear and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.  Some criticised the ceremony as chaotic, but I thought it was appropriate and sensitively implemented, given the situation.  

If the government had been honest and transparent about going ahead with the Olympics and Paralympics during the pandemic, rather than monotonously insisting that it would be ‘safe and secure/, people might have been less anxious, critical and resentful.   

I am aware that it was an incredibly complex task, not as black and white as it appeared.  Japan couldn’t have just cancelled the Games as it was ultimately the IOC’s decision.  Still, the government could have handled it better.  I may sound a little naive, but I believe honesty is the way to win people’s hearts.  By being transparent about the pros and cons and their decisions to go ahead despite the adversity, the Suga cabinet’s support rate might not have fallen as low as 30% despite the success of the Olympics.    

In the long run, Japan must move towards a more socially and spiritually sustainable society, as Emmott suggests.  To realise this, individuals should be allowed to be their authentic selves, regardless of gender, race, and any other human contrivances.  If Japan cannot embrace individual happiness and fulfilment, it cannot proclaim that it is a country of diversity and inclusion.  

Satona Suzuki 

SOAS University of London 

Bangladesh: when will world media be more sympathetic?

I was delighted to read the excellent piece in your esteemed magazine about the refugee issue in Bangladesh (‘Sophisticated Compassion’, August 2021), which explained the problems relating to the influx of displaced people from neighbouring Myanmar, ruled by the despot military for the last 60 years.  

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with huge problems of its own in terms of housing, health and infrastructure. It has just embarked on a trajectory of improving those shortcomings after a gruelling 15 years of non-democratic governance. Democracy is still in its infancy.  

The Rohingya refugee crisis was a result of a duty to save lives from a genocide. These displaced, impoverished, highly marginalised people had no choice but to pour into Bangladesh. This mirrors my own experience, when in 1971, my family became refugees in India to avoid the genocide unleashed by the Pakistani Panjabi Army in then East Pakistan. I know what it takes to become a refugee and what it takes for a host country to grapple with the crisis.  

Some international media writers sitting in comfortable, air-conditioned offices in rich countries fail to grasp the scale of the challenge for Bangladesh and look at the rest of the world through the prism of their own views. Derogatory articles on the Rohingya issue are extremely painful for Bengalis.  

I commend the Asian Affairs article as an accurate depiction of the dichotomy that Bangladesh faces with these refugees. It would be beneficial if other media outlets also became more aware of the realities of life in the country. 


Imran Chowdhury B.E.M