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EDITORIAL | Japanese Olympic Committee Failures, IOC Put Future Olympic Opportunities at Risk

Yamashita, a member of the International Olympic Committee and the JOC, should have known in advance about the IOC's plans for the 2030 and 2034 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has officially decided to simultaneously name the hosts of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. This was announced by the IOC recently at its General Assembly in Mumbai, India.

At the end of November, the IOC Executive Board will narrow down the candidate cities. The IOC General Assembly scheduled for Paris in the summer of 2024 will make the final decision. 

Sapporo had no time to spare. It had abandoned its bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games. And now its bid to host the 2034 Olympics appeared doomed as well.

Posters of Olympic athletes are displayed in an underground mall in Sapporo in February 2022. (©KYODO)

JOC's Shock at the Two-Country Decision

Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Yasuhiro Yamashita reacted to the IOC's decision from Mumbai. On the plan to decide the hosts for two Winter Games at the same time, he said, "I was like, 'What on earth?' " 

He added that the JOC representatives had no inkling that there would even be a discussion of such simultaneous decision-making.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto also commented: "I was a little surprised because I had heard from President Yamashita that there was little chance of approval of simultaneous decisions."

However, we are the ones who should be shocked. How could the two men have discussed the strategy for Sapporo's bid without awareness that such an important development was in the works?

As recently as October 11, Yamashita and Akimoto appeared together at a press conference. In it, they announced that Sapporo was abandoning its bid for the 2030 Winter Games but would aim to bid for the 2034 Olympics or later. 

At that time, Yamashita declared confidently that the "probability [of simultaneous decisions] is low." Nonetheless, only a few short days later, their strategy for future bids lay in tatters.

We can only rely on JOC and IOC members to obtain information about what is happening at the IOC. Yamashita is not only the president of the JOC, he is also a member of the IOC. He has admitted that he misread what the IOC was likely to do. Even so, we cannot so easily dismiss his abject failure. 

JOC Chairman Yasuhiro Yamashita holds a regular press conference in Tokyo on February 14, 2023. (© Kyodo)

Tasks of the JOC

At the press conference announcing the abandonment of Sapporo's bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the two also cited the corruption and bid-rigging scandals surrounding the Tokyo Olympics as factors in the lack of public understanding. But we heard no strong expression of regret even though Yamashita was very much involved in the Tokyo Olympics.

The JOC's main tasks are to develop and strengthen Japan's athletes. Its focal points are to send athletes to major international competitions and popularize and promote the Olympic Movement. Here, the athletic organizations are in charge of strengthening athletes. Meanwhile, the administrative staff is in charge of dispatching athletes. That leaves talking about the meaning of the Olympic Movement and spreading its message as the main task of JOC executives.

Yamashita said that the decision to abandon Sapporo's 2030 bid was due, in part, to the fact that there seemed to be no compelling significance to holding the Games there at that time. However, isn't it the JOC president's responsibility to explain why the Olympics should be held there? Is Yamashita even aware of the nature of that responsibility?

Japan wants to be considered a country worthy of hosting the Olympics. For that to happen, the current system should be scrapped and a fresh start made. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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