Scandals challenge Japanese sports world

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/26 18:38:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

A sex scandal has brought the Japanese men's basketball team under the glare at the Asian Games in Jakarta. According to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, four players left the games venue after a match on August 16 on the pretext of having dinner. They had their national jerseys on and headed for the bustling blocks in the Indonesian capital where a Japanese pimp helped them obtain the services of four prostitutes in a hotel. On August 20, the head of the Japanese delegation admitted that the four players were involved in buying sex. The scandal has ignited public concern in the country and cast a shadow over Japan's expectations to stand out in the Tokyo Olympics. The Jakarta Asian Games are being taken as a warm-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In recent years, negative news has often put Japanese sports under a cloud. At the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, Japanese swimmer Naoya Tomita was sent home after being caught on video stealing the camera of a Yonhap journalist from the pool deck. In March this year, Icho Kaori, a prominent Japanese wrestler, publicly reported her coach for repeated harassment. In May, the coach of the Nihon University rugby team was suspected of helping players mount a malicious attack on opponents. In August, the president of the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation was accused of improper use of government grants and close contacts with gangsters. While Japanese athletes have many achievements in international competitions to boast of, recurrent scandals have maligned sports in the country.

The latest scandal in Jakarta has once again brought into spotlight weak morals of Japanese athletes. Such behavior is reprehensible by all measures. The camera stealing and sex buying scandals demonstrate that there has not been any let-up in the behavior of Japanese athletes that could make them stand moral scrutiny. Though some coaches and senior officials made a commitment to check the moral decline, it did not yield results.

The scandals in which Japanese sports persons are caught up reveal that they do not pay enough attention to moral restraints. Probably since Japan is not a sports power, as long as Japanese athletes win medals in international competitions, they gain "super-national treatment" and are even honored by special congratulatory phone calls from the Japanese prime minister, ethics and probity are thrown to the winds.

Last but not the least, it is ironic that history repeats itself in different ways. The last Asian Games held in Jakarta were in 1962, during which Japan topped the medals tally. Tokyo hosted the first spectacular Olympic Games in Asia two years later. This year, Jakarta is hosting the Asian Games again, and Tokyo will host the Olympic Games for the second time in 2020. However, this time the Japanese delegation has been mired in a scandal.

Although the Asian Games and the Olympic Games are not linked, the latest scandal is undoubtedly a warning to the Japanese sports community. Tokyo will host the Olympic Games again not only to compete in home matches or to introduce to the world a modern Japanese society. More importantly, it is to demonstrate the strength and purpose of Japan as a host country through the Olympic Games. There is not much time for Japanese sports to get its act together.

The author is an editor at the Global Times and an observer of Japan issues.

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