Tokyo Battle of the Trees still dampens Japanese Olympic enthusiasm
At any other time in Yoyogi Park, the sight of workers going about their business with power saws went unnoticed. It is a densely wooded place and the magnificent 57 year old oaks and cedars do not cut each other.
But by mid-2021, with the Olympic spectacle only 50 days away and its momentum now appears unresponsive to medical, media or public calls for cancellation, loggers have become convenient villains. The park should be prepared as a “Olympic Live Zone”.
A few dozen trees must be cut down to make room for the site, the use of which, like everything else, will ultimately be dictated by the coronavirus. And as limited as the activities of tree surgeons are in practice, to their fiercest detractors online, they are vandal-hating and ecologically-loathing cronies for an Olympic project that is eroding Japan’s sanity and sovereignty.
Rising indignation At the Olympics, cutting down trees offers a clear synthesis of many things (beyond the global pandemic) that have gone wrong with the games at this point. This includes the “barring Armageddon it is a go ”message from the officials of the International Olympic Committee and the numerous direct errors of the local organizers, including the resignation in February of the president of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Yoshiro Mori, for sexist remarks. Meanwhile, the Japanese public have a grim and frustrated feeling about the unstoppable arrival of tens of thousands of athletes and their teams.
Yoyogi Park is a fitting setting for the final battle over the wisdom of holding the Olympics in a still untamed pandemic with less than 3% of the country fully vaccinated. The 134-acre expanse of central Tokyo land was used as an Olympic Village in 1964. A fine example of a legacy that was neither a large public debt nor a dilapidated facility, the village was later converted into one of the most beautiful parks in the capital.
Whether you agree or disagree with the staging of the 64 games, which have not been without its issues, they have been a source of Japanese pride for nearly six decades. Few places evoke their memory so powerfully. The trees currently being cut are among 1,100 trees that were planted, as seedlings, by the starting athletes at the time.
There are several obvious issues with the decision to go ahead and build the Live Zone. The area was designed to encourage dense public crowds – originally as large as 35,000 people, since reduced by the hundreds – to celebrate the festival aspect of the games. It has always been part of the Tokyo 2020 plan. Even the dullest imagination can see that without a pandemic it would have been incredible fun.
But for several months now, Yoyogi himself has exemplified Japan’s inconsistent approach to both the rise in infections and the decision to say gambling is safe.
The same large spaces that will be used for the Live Zone were closed in March to discourage gatherings and have since been closed. This policy, whatever its real value in controlling the pandemic, now looks ludicrous in the face of the powerful persuasion of the Olympics. Either crowds are allowed to come in large numbers to enjoy the Live Zone and the closure of the open areas of the park was not necessary in the first place, or they decide that the crowds are not allowed to come and the Live Zone is another colossal waste of money and a default. reason to cut down trees.
With limited visibility of what will happen, the public has questioned whether construction of the area is cynically moving forward to meet yet another unbreakable financial commitment made before Covid, or, worse, whether the only guests of the area will visit Olympic officials. .
The Yoyogi trees are a side-show, but they reveal a chasm between the organizers and the Japanese audience who will be yawning more by the opening ceremony.
Having overcome the macro objection of moving forward, organizers have almost no choice but to steam-roll every micro objection that arises. The government has, for better or for worse, accepted the great risk that, president of the Japanese Union of Physicians said so, the legacy of the games will be the emergence of a new “Olympic” Covid strain. It was an all-in bet, and all-in betting requires a certain performance that fails when there is a glimmer of weakness or compromise.
The audience, having lost any real ability to derail the project, will growl more and more fiercely around the micro objections and inconsistencies. Projects like the Live Zone – and others to come – will be treated as compelling proof that the organizers either did not understand the bet they made, or that they are deliberately underestimating what was put on. Table.