Everybody’s excited about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, right? Well, not everybody. Some of us never wanted it in the first place, because we know what it will bring. An orgasm of unneeded construction in a city that already supports an endless cycle of demolition and building. An influx of short term visitors to a country that is both enjoying and grappling with skyrocketing numbers of inbound tourists.
Who stands to benefit from the Olympics? The same entities that always benefit from such endeavors: major media and marketing companies, big construction firms, “the Olympic” brand, the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) and, one would hope, the athletes.
What about the common citizen? Tokyo residents, both Japanese and foreign, may experience an incremental increase in pride and a burst of excitement as the world turns to Japan, but those feelings will largely be offset by mountains of inconvenience, the hollow pain of the post-event hangover and the realization that nothing has really changed for the better, or really at all (aside from a few new sidewalks).
If you build it, they will come and work for free.
Everyone knows that Tokyo will produce an event that is brilliantly branded, perfectly orchestrated and admired worldwide as a sparkling example of Japan’s collective resources. But this is not 1964. The world does not need to be shown just how far Japan has risen from the ashes of war. Japan Inc. won, it got fat and lazy and yet, despite metabolic issues, it hungers for more.
For those reasons, the Tokyo 2020 plan for soliciting an all-volunteer Olympic work force is both puzzling and repulsive. You might think that Olympic volunteers would be charged with tasks like making sure runners don’t veer off course, providing directions to visitors and maybe passing out maps and pamphlets. But the JOC has much, much more in mind.
According to the JOC, there are two categories of volunteers: Games Volunteers and City Volunteers. Both Japanese and foreign residents who are 18-years old are welcome. Games Volunteers should be able to participate in training sessions and work for 10 days or more. City Volunteers should be able to work five hours a day for five days.
Here’s a small sample of some of the volunteer jobs that are on offer. Drivers, language services, logistics support, medical support and doping control. Yes, you read that correctly. The JOC expects to recruit licensed physicians and pharmacologists to provide their free time to conduct one of the most important and politically charged aspects of the Olympics: drug testing. That is making sure the athletes don’t cheat by ingesting one or more of a seemingly endless array of performance enhancing chemicals.
What should I do with this vial of blood?
Surely, the JOC is not expecting pharmacists and physicians to take on the vital role of doping control for free. Yes, it is, and that's not all. These volunteers will have to pay for their own transportation and accommodations. Here’s the official statement.
“Games Volunteers and City Volunteers are not compensated. In principle, these volunteers will be responsible for transportation costs to and from Tokyo and for securing their own accommodations.”
Say what? Even slaves get provided with meals, transportation and accommodations. Don’t worry, the JOC may decide to help you find a place to stay and give you a “cool Japan” uniform. Here is the rest of the statement.
“Providing information related to accommodations will be considered. Meanwhile, we will now consider details concerning what may be provided to volunteers, including uniforms that instill a sense of unity and pride, training, and meals.”
United colors of volunteering
I know nothing fills me with pride and helps me sleep better at night than having a crisp new uniform hanging in my closet. However, it comes as no surprise that not everyone is happy with this situation.
“Let me say again to all students who are thinking to be a volunteer for Tokyo Olympics…because the Olympics is the biggest commercial event. And for now, more than 40 billion yen [has been] collected from 42 sponsors, so they don’t need volunteers. If you do, the money just goes to JOC and Dentsu. It is just silly,” tweeted Ryu Honma
Yes, Tokyo 2020 volunteers have a lot to look forward to, such as the unbridled joy of helping companies, such as the advertising giant Dentsu, fatten their pockets, while making the fat cat dinosaurs that run the JOC look good. Sounds like a win-win. Where do I sign?