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  • Tokyo Olympic Legacy Should Respect the Departed -- Op Ed


    The Japanese and Olympic flags fly in tandem at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) It was hard for me to believe what I was seeing when I attended the executive board meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) as an observer on January 20.

    Earlier that morning, Olympian Hitoshi Saito, who won gold medals in 1984 and 1988, passed away, aged 54, due to lung cancer. In the afternoon on the same day, JOC held its executive board meeting.

    I thought members attending at the meeting should have observed a moment of silence for the late Olympian, but this was not done despite the fact that the meeting ran an hour and a half.

    After the meeting, I asked some attendees, “Why was no moment of reflection organized?”

    One said, "Because Mr. Saito had no career as an executive member of JOC." Another said, "Oh! We should. It was regrettable for us not to have done so."  

    According to the bureau of JOC, "It is difficult for us to organize such a ceremony whenever a medalist dies."

    However, the JOC has a custom of observing a moment of silence when contributors to the Olympic Movement, such as JOC executive members, die.

    Saito had no career as a member of the executive board of JOC, but he was head coach of the Japanese judo team at the Athens and Beijing Games.

    JOC executives must offer their condolences to a departed Olympic gold medalist, regardless of his position of JOC.

    Muneyoshi Ueda, who has held prominent posts like vice president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, president of Japan Hockey Association, vice president of Asian Hockey Federation, and executive board member for the International Hockey Federation, died last November.
    According to custom, the meeting of executive board of the day should have taken a moment to mourn Ueda, but it failed to do so. Many have never been informed of his death.

    According to the bureau of the JOC, new his death was not delivered officially by request of his family. However, the International Hockey Federation showed a memorial message on its homepage.

    Even though three two months have passed since Ueda’s death, JOC and Japan Hockey Association do not seem to have any intention of organizing a meeting in memory of Ueda.

    In looking toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the word "legacy" has been catching on in Japan. However, it seems to be an empty slogan.

    When we face the death of a person, those left behind must take action to remember. I am filled with a sense of uncertainty about Tokyo 2020 knowing the executives have no sense of respect for an ex-Olympian.

    Written by Toshiki Tsuda, a reporter for the Sankei Shimbun

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