By Linda Pentz Gunter
On Saturday, March 21, 50,000 people queued up at Sendai station to see the Olympic flame displayed in a cauldron there. Packed together, not all of them wearing masks, the eager spectators waited as long as three hours to glimpse a flame that should have been extinguished in Japan months ago.
Yes, it was beyond stupidity to have continued contemplating an event that would have brought tens of thousands of corona-carrying athletes and spectators to Tokyo and beyond. But it was worse that the persistent radiological contamination of Japan in the now 9-year long aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster didn’t cancel the Games months ago. Or better still, disqualify Japan’s bid in the first place. Things in Japan won’t be significantly better in that regard one year from now. But radiation remains untouchable as a topic.
Japan needed the Games for one compelling reason; to cover-up and sanitize the world’s worst, or second worst, nuclear disaster — arguments still abound as to whether Fukushima will end up being worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, whose long-term health effects now pass down generations.
That’s why Japan gave the Games, the “Recovery Olympics” moniker, to prove that Fukushima wasn’t all that bad after all and that everything is back to normal. Which is, of course, a big and unforgivable lie.
The refusal to cancel the Games because of the radiation risks prompted a group in Japan called Citizens’ Group for Appealing against Danger of Tokyo Olympics, to produce a book warning against going forward. What Endangers Tokyo Olympics — Clear and Present Radioactivity and Health Damage, details a host of reasons to have called off the event long before the cancelation was forced on the Japanese government by the covid-19 pandemic. (The book is in Japanese but there is an introductory summary in English.)
The book is edited by Etsuji Watanabe, a member of ACSIR (Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation Exposure) who also relates that activists opposing the Olympics have faced harassment by police.
The book urges athletes, visitors and spectators planning to attend the Tokyo Olympics not to trust any Japanese government propaganda “claiming that Fukushima and Tokyo ‘are 100% safe now’, ‘have no risk of radiation exposure’, or ‘radiation exposure won’t cause any health effects’.”