Monday, December 11, 2023

Sport Flakes: Again, China Moves Tokyo Olympic Games

This sounds more like confusion or probably we need to clear from Confucianism. I guess Shintoism and Taoism are at war, that explains why something that began in China hit Tokyo, Japan so hard that the 2020 Olympics will not hold as planned. Athletes are scattered all over the world uncertain of what tomorrow holds as they wait for next year.

Tokyo was billed to host the Olympic Games in 1940. Three years to time, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked Manchuria, then regarded as part of China. The Japs were in battle mood in 1931 but waited for an opportunity in 1937, which became known as the ‘China Incident’. They renamed the area, Manchukuo and went ahead to install a man loyal to them, as leader.

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] reacted by withdrawing the hosting rights granted Tokyo. Helsinki, Finland was named as the new host city. The 1940 Games did not hold after all following the Soviet invasion of Finland. The World was at war and there was little time to prepare for peace which the Games was supposed to offer. Instead of world records sports lovers were looking at a Second World War.

The 2020 Olympic Games were almost certain until the last weeks of 2019 when China exploded in what has plagued the world as Corona virus, better known as COVID-19. The Japanese had done their best and 18 years after co-hosting the soccer World Cup with South Korea, looked forward to saying ‘do itashi mashite’ [you are welcome ] to the sporting world.


That was when news came that death had settled in Wuhan just like it did in Manchuria in the twentieth century. In 1937, the identity of those who stormed China was not hidden. General Iwane Matsui led Japanese troops. The Chief of Staff was Hideki Tojo, better known as ‘Razor’, reporting to Prime Minister, Prince Fumimaro Konoe. By 1938, about 60 million persons had been sacked from their homes.

The invasion of Manchuria cost Tokyo the 1940 Summer Olympics. That was not the end of IOC Sanctions on the Japs. The Winter Games scheduled for Sapporo was also cancelled. Japan’s defence for fighting in Manchuria was that their military patrol squad was attacked by Chinese elements on the Marco Polo Bridge in Peking. The Imperial Army was so ruthless that Gen. Kenji Doihara was renamed ‘Lawrence of Manchuria’.

There is another interesting part of the this China jinx. By January 1940, the year Tokyo would have hosted the Olympics, the Japanese Prime Minister was Nabuyuki Abe, a retired general. In 2020, the Prime minister of Japan is Shinzo Abe. While the first Abe did not last as Prime Minister, having served from August 1939 to January 16, 1940 the present Abe has emerged as the longest serving Prime Minister of the country. His first tenure was equally short, 2006 to 2007 but he returned and has been round since 2012.

It sounds strange that many of the top Japanese officials who played a role in the invasion of Manchuria in 1937 died in Tokyo or were born there. That city is Tojo’s birth place. After serving in China, he returned to his country as minister of War, 1940-1941 and Prime Minister during the Second World War, 1941-1944. He was hanged as a war criminal in 1945.

Prince Fumimaro, Prime minister in 1937, was born and died in Tokyo. Gen. Matsui was executed in Tokyo in 1948. Nabuyuki Abe died in Tokyo in 1953, a year before Shinzo Abe was born in the same city. Another Prime Minister, Mitsuma Yonai, died in the Japanese capital in 1948. Yet another Prime Minister who reigned during the occupation, Kiichira Hiranuma died in 1939 in the same capital city.

Tokyo eventually got another opportunity to host the Olympics. It came in 1964 and favoured not only Africa but Nigeria got a first medal. Ethiopian soldier, Abebe Bikila, emerged as the first runner to retain the Marathon gold. His first gold came at Rome ’60. Thus began Africa’s rise in the long distance events with Kenya giving Ethiopia enough to worry about.

Nojim Maiyegun, a Lagos boy and Nigerian Navy rating won bronze in boxing. His bronze was celebrated like gold. Bikila’s lone gold was also Ethiopia’s only prize at the games. Maiyegun’s effort placed Nigeria in the 35th position, out of 93 nations. Also in Nigeria’s position were Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Ireland, Ghana and Kenya.

The Kenyans have never looked back since Tokyo’64. At Mexico ’68, they won three gold medals, four silver and two bronze to finish 14th on the table, out of 112 participating countries. Kipchoge Keino bagged gold in the 1,500 metres and silver in the 5,000 metres. Naftali Temu grabbed gold in the 10,000 metres just like Amos Biwott in the 3,000 Steeplechase.

It was funny to find a Nigerian name on the medals table at Mexico’68. Unfortunately, WilsonChuma who won silver in the 800metres was a Kenyan. Biafrans were fighting Nigeria at that time, Nigeria came back empty handed even as some Igbo names like Tony Igwe, Peter Aneke, Sam Garba Okoye, Austin Ofuokwu and Sam Opone played for the Green Eagles. Coach Eto Amaechina was left behind in Lagos.

The final torch bearer at the Tokyo Olympics, Yoshinori Sakai, was born on August 6, 1945. That was the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Lucky boy, his mother brought him into the world in that ruined town. It was the end of the Second World War. The war also stooped London from hosting the Olympics in 1944.

London hosted later in 1948 making it the first time a Nigerian , Prince Adegboyega Fola Adedoyin, from Ijebu Remo, participated in the Games. He was a medical student at Queen’s University Belfast and represented Great Britain since his country was still under colonial rule. He finished fifth in the Long Jump. Forty six years later, Nigeria’s first Olympic gold came through the Long Jump, thanks to Chioma Ajunwa.

However, Nigeria has not won more than three Olympic gold medals since the country entered in 1952. Kenya that won one bronze just like in Nigeria in 1964, hit three gold in 1968. What the East Africans achieved in one outing, at Mexico ’68, has not being equaled by the West Africans in 68 years.

The Olympics did not hold in 1916 because of the First World War. The first Modern Games were held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The first Olympics took place in Olympia, Greece in 776 B.C. The Games continued every four years until Emperor Theodosius of Rome dismissed it all as a pagan celebration in 393 B.C. That was after 1,100 years. It took another 1,500 years for the show.

After Tokyo failed to host the Olympics in 1940, the world knew no peace until 1945. And many Japanese were punished for invading China and later forcing the United States into the war following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Harvard University trained sea lord who struck America was later killed by the Yankees in ‘Operation Vengeance’ on April 18, 1943. His body was brought from Papua New Guinea and buried in Tokyo.

The Tokyo 2020 Games have been moved to 2021. The world is still battling with what American President, Donald Trump called the China virus. The US has lost more citizens in 2020 than it lost in 1940. For now, the world is fighting an unseen enemy. The Japs and the Yankees have reversed roles, they are buddies and their eyes are on China.

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Signature TV
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