The Tokyo 2020 Games and the end of Olympic history / Jules Boykoff, Christopher Gaffney

Boykoff, Jules | Gaffney, Christopher

The authors, anti-Olympic activists, took part in a protest rally and march in Tokyo's Shinjuku shopping district against the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. People from former and future Olympic host cities—Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, London, and PyeongChang—converged to spotlight that the “Recovery Games” don't and won't help recovery from Fukushima's 2011 nuclear disaster. According to the authors, Fukushima's catastrophe teed up an archetypal opportunity for what Naomi Klein (2007) calls “disaster capitalism.” Disasters—wars, typhoons, floods, terrorist attacks—thrust a population into a state of shock that leaves it susceptible to capitalists who seize the pandemonium to privatize, deregulate, and marketize. A disaster brings “a total merger of political and corporate elites in the name of security” in ways that justify and bolster neoliberal capitalism. Similar dynamics can also emerge during collective states of euphoria like the Olympic Games—or, “celebration capitalism”. The authors identify a potent synergy of disaster capitalism and celebration capitalism. Both torque the normal rules of politics and law, creating opportunities for well-connected political and economic elites. This turbocharged blend reinforces and fuses nationalism, consumerism, and “disaster recovery,” refashioning them into a powerful political-economic spectacle driven by Olympic ideology—a collective, feel-good way forward in uncertain times. Yet, according to the authors, the Olympics cannot, by design or desire, accomplish these goals. To the contrary, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are amplifying global ecological, social, and political crises.


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