tv Inside Story LINKTV August 6, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT
♪ this is al jazeera. these are the headlines. one of california's largest wildfires has destroyed large parts of a historic goldrush era town. greenville was home to buildings more than centuries old. streetlights were seen melting in the extreme heat. the fire has been burning for around three weeks, fueled by high temperatures and strong winds. reporter: this is the center of greenville. most of this town has been wiped out. this happened about 24 hours
ago. about this time on wednesday, the winds kicked up to over 60 kilometers per hour. that just allowed the fire that was already enormous, about the size of new york city, to explode. when it did, it overran this town. you can see this guys have cleared now. but that is because the fire is consumed -- has consumed much of the dry fuel that is here and just moved on and much of the town itself. >> in greece, there are more than 100 fires burning. one fire on the outskirts of athens has reignited. rebels have seized control of the north of be b.o.b a. -- the north of a b.o.b a. -- the north of ethiopia.
a congressional committee in brazil has voted against a return to paper ballots and next year's election. president bolsonaro has been pushing to end electronic voting, laming machines allowed for voter fraud -- claiming machines allowed for voter fraud. please stay with us on al jazeera. next, "inside story." ♪ hazem: it's an olympic games like never befor no crowds of supporters in tokyo cause of covid-19, but plenty of politics. how has that affected this great sporting event? this is "inside story." ♪
hello, and welcome to the program. i'm hazem sika. as the tokyo olympics come to an end this sunday, a year late because of the covid-19 pandemic, some athletes and their nations are celebrating their medals, while others will be looking at where they can improve in three years' time. in paris, what has arguably been the world's biggest sporting event has always been a chance for nations big and small to showcase themselves on the grandest of stages. historically, the prestige of the athlete's medal podium has been an opportunity for governments to promote a kind of soft power of culture and influence, rather than the hard power of wealth and military might. but have some countries now crossed that line? and do the games still have the same impact for the medal-winning nations and the
hosts? we'll be asking those questions and more with our guests in a moment, but first, let's take a look at some of the major events involving the games and politics. in 1936, nazi germany hosted the olympics, but it only allowed what it referred to as the aryan race to represent germany, further marginalizing its jewish population. in the 1960s, apartheid south africa was banned from competing in what was the tokyo olympics, but only after it had already been allowed to use an all-white team to compete during the same decade. -- allowed to use an all-white team to compete. during the same decade, in 1968, in mexico, american athletes used their podium wins to raise awareness about racism, a move that had them kicked out of those olympics. and in 1980, the united states led a boycott of the games in moscow, as a response to the soviet union's invasion of afghanistan. the irony now being that the u.s invaded afghanistan 21 years
later. ♪ well, for more on this, i'm joined by our guests. in london, ontario, richard baka, adjunct fellow and olympic scholar and co-director of the proposed olympic research network. in tokyo, we have barbara holthus, the deputy director of the german institute for japanese studies and editor of "japan through the lens of the tokyo olympics." and in doha, ross griffin, a middle east editor of the international journal of the history of sports. good to have you all with us. so barbara, let me start with you then, since you are where it's all happening right now. i think it's fair to say this is not the olympics that japan had envisioned, when they were awarded the games in tokyo back in 2011 in the middle of a pandemic.
no spectators, lots of domestic opposition to this, with protests, and so on. but given all of those limitations, can it still be seen as a success? and how is that success measured? >> well, that is a difficult question, and that really depends on which stakeholder is being given that question, right? so for the ioc, they will most definitely say this is going to be a success, because their main income comes from tv rights, and it's a tv only event now. well, if you talk to the japanese population, the thing looks very, very different, as they are being shut out from the games, but they're being held there. they were very cautious about the possibility of different virus mutations coming into the country. you know, 200 countries coming into their city.
when you look at the japanese government, the costs are tremendous. when you look at the sponsors, a lot of them have now declined tv ads. they kind of stepped back, because they didn't want the negative fallout from this. so, it really depends who you're talking to. hazem: ross griffin, we talked there at the top about about this whole idea of soft power and how nations use the olympics as a stage to promote that sort of soft power with the accomplishments of athletes. but in terms of the host nation of japan, what impact has hosting the olympics, and under these conditions, had on what they were hoping to get out of these games? >> i think the games have been successful, from an athletics
point of view, for the japanese olympic committee. they're higher in the table than they would historically be, so it's given them a chance to demonstrate that they are as accomplished in other fields such as athleticism, athletics, as they would be in what they would be stereotypically be conceived of, as technology and other areas like that. it shows that they can compete, i suppose, alongside the other g-7 nations. if you look at the middle table, it's got the usual characters of china, america, britain, australia, and are known as the russian olympic committee, and japan is sitting, or sat, very comfortably alongside them. i think they're fourth or fifth currently in the medals table, which is, as i said, historically much higher than they normally would be. hazem: yeah, great britain, you mentioned there, is an interesting example that we can come back to, in terms of their their sporting achievements at the olympics over the last few years. but i want to get the view of richard now on this.
what do you think should be the legacy of the tokyo olympics? >> i think they can be called the compromise olympics, or the television olympics. i personally thought they should have been delayed another year, to have the full effect, with the fans there, and spectators from overseas, but that didn't happen, so we have to live with it now. and so, i think the legacy will be, got through covid, a few hiccups along the way, we've only got five days to go, we'll see what happens with the paralympics, but they'll be known as the compromised or television olympics that went ahead, the ioc pushed forward on that. a delay until 2022 could have occurred, but that didn't, so they're going to be back on track. and as you pointed out, there's only three years until paris to the next summer games, and less than six months until the beijing winter games, but that might be another political hot potato between now and when they take place. hazem: barbara, i saw you nodding in agreement to some of that, about this idea that perhaps it should have been delayed another year, to 2022,
so you could get all the crowds in there. talk a little bit more about that, why you think that. >> yeah, well, i mean, the hopes and wishes that japan connected with these games were manyfold. on the one hand, of course, they wanted 40 million tourists from abroad getting into the country in 2020, and now, the country has been completely locked, except to olympic related people, for a year and a half, right, so that is huge. so they can't showcase themselves. they can't get any financial benefits from selling these seats. so economically, it's really, really difficult, and it's of course difficult to sell to the people who have been -- over half a million people have been losing their jobs. and, of course, it's hard to tell people to -- and that's what the japanese government has been doing over and over in
these many states of emergency, please, you know, do self-restraint, don't go out, don't drink alcohol, right, don't go to restaurants, don't mingle, but yet, then the world comes together in the city. and so, that's why partially, why we see this large increase now in covid cases in the city. hazem: ross griffin, how important is the achievement of medals at the olympics for countries? and i suppose it does depend to an extent on which country you're talking about. i mean, if you look at the example of great britain, and the decision that was made back in the late 1990s, they had a terrible olympics back in 1996. they won one gold medal, finished i think it was 37th, in the podium, and a decision was made right after that to pump a lot more money into grassroots sports, into sports that would help them win olympic gold
medals. and since then, they've had a huge measure of success. and, you know, getting into the medals podium sort of around fifth or sixth in the medals table, pretty much every olympic since beijing, so it does show you that this kind of thing does matter for a country's prestige. and with britain, we're not talking about china, or, you know, or an authoritarian nation, it is a kind of projection of soft power, isn't it, for many of these countries? >> oh, it very much is. the middle table is always something that's very keenly watched by spectators, and i imagine politicians as well. it's important to note, though, that every country has a different agenda, almost, when it comes to the medal tables. you have the traditional superpowers of sport, america, china, and russia would always be looking to use the middle table to assert their own spin
on society, that their own social model is better than others. but when it comes to nations, particularly britain, coming out of the backdrop of what seems to be a very confused and bungled brexit process, what many experts deem to be a very very poor mishandling of the corbett -- of the covid pandemic, this is something that boris johnson and his peers in that conservative government can cling onto, so you can say, look, we're doing something right here. now, i'm not exactly sure how they translate 15 or 16 gold medals into political capital, that's the job of the politicians to do, but this trickles all the way down to states that wouldn't be as large or established as the britains of the world, or the chinas, or the americas, if you look at the -- i suppose it's confusing, when you look at the mine an olympics platform, because they're designated as chinese taipei in the olympic medal table, but taiwan by any other
name. it's important to know that they are 23rd on that middle table and that they used mega sporting events such as the olympics to establish a sense of legitimacy, a sense of identity outside of the umbrella of more dominant neighbors that wish to bring them back in, and that's where middle tables -- they really are important for little and larger nations to assert a sense of national identity for whatever agenda is deemed necessary at the time. hazem: barbara, when we talk about national identity, the opening ceremony is always a big opportunity, isn't it, for that host nation to kind of set out their stall -- it's a kind of -- it's a huge pr spectacle. in that sense. what did you make of what we saw in tokyo almost a couple of weeks ago now? >> i thought the symbolic power and many of these ideas in the opening ceremony were really strong.
and, for example, you had asked earlier about, you know, the goals and hopes and desires of the olympics, and one was to show how inclusive japan is, and how diverse japan is, and inclusion, you could really see in the opening ceremony, in regards to having a lot of people with disabilities, people in wheelchairs participating in the ceremony. you had naomi osaka lighting the cauldron, who is multi-racial japanese, and that has huge symbolic power, as well as the japanese flag there. the basketball player hachimura, he is also multiracial, and so, to choose these two in these very exposed positions really supported this desire of showing how diverse japan has become. hazem: richard, what do you make
of this idea that's been put out that, you know, the whole soft power thing doesn't matter so much, doesn't have the same impact that it used to for countries, and it's become more about the personalities, when you look at what happened with simone biles, the american gymnast, and her decision to not compete in certain events because she said she was looking out for her mental health, that is something that got a great deal of coverage in the media and had some asking whether this has become more of a platform for athletes than their nations. what do you make of that idea? >> well, of course, the ioc's athletes' commission has gotten more powerful. they just voted some new members
on, as they change them around. so they've definitely increased their profile. the whole olympic issue, with respect to politics, has changed. of course, boycotts. we haven't seen a boycott since 1984, when it was the tit for tat, when the soviet and lead nations didn't come to l.a., and that was in sort of punishment for the americans and their boycott supporters, not going to moscow. so boycotts haven't occurred. so when we got to 1988 in seoul, they were boycott free, and everyone went, wow, this is great no boycotts, normal -- everyone went, wow, this is great, no boycotts, normal olympics, and i think, as you've identified, it's gone back to more of an athlete focus now. i was noticed the other day there was a chinese competitor in one of the sports, and another athlete was treating that competitor, you know, just as if they were any other athlete around the world. and there could have been some animosity there, because issues are going on in beijing, with respect to the winter games in 2022, but yeah, they just seem -- they are athletes, and they don't really want to do too
much, in terms of inflaming the situation. they are there to train, win medals, and they kind of stay out of the political forum. there has only been, i think, one little small protest that the ioc didn't want to occur, but they've put things in place to punish athletes and quite do that. but, yeah, i think we've seen that all diminish, boycotts and issues that happen, it's gone more to an athlete focus. hazem: barbara, people say that politics should have no business being involved in sport at all, and vice versa, but do you think that's perhaps a naive view? because when we look all through history, the two have never been far apart, and when you have a stage as large as the olympic games, that's always going to be an opportunity for certain people, whether they be countries or individual athletes, to put forward their agenda, so to speak. what's your take on that? >> i think that's, of course,
immediately tied to each other, i don't think there could be such a mega event -- the world's largest mega event without a serious involvement of politics, because there's so much money involved, and national prestige that is being pushed, and certain agendas, and i think that those strong ties, they're not going to get any less over time. hazem: ross griffin, what's your take on that? in terms of the way different different countries approach that narrative? >> politics and sports have always been intertwined. this goes back to the early 1900s. you had irish athletes at the 1906 games protesting british colonization. they brought their own flag. and this resurfaced again in 1972, when you had irish cyclists, an alternate irish
cycling team in the 1972 games interrupted the road race. you've already mentioned the games involving south africa in the early 1960's, and the munich games also, so it's always been a part of the olympic games. i know that the ioc has tried to minimalize or diminish that the -- or diminish the amount of protests in these games, and the american shot putter that was mentioned earlier, i don't think i have seen it in the games so far. i don't think you can eliminate it completely. you're always going to have some risk of protest. it's just a part and parcel of the olympic games. hazem: speaking of protests and politics, richard, i know this was mentioned earlier, about the winter games that are coming up in beijing in early 2022, and
the real possibility of some sort of international boycott there, because of the chinese government's treatment of the weaker people -- of the uyghur people back in 2008, when china hosted the summer olympics there again. there were concerns raised about human rights record, but of course, nothing happened there. that the games were seen as a huge success for china. but are things different this time around, though? >> yes, they are. i come from australia, and currently in canada, and they've got two issues with china at the moment. the australians have had so many tariffs put on their trade with china, and china bullying australia, a smaller nation with lots of raw resources that they need, and canada's had the two michaels, there's two canadian diplomats that are being held there and have been there over a year. they've got that issue.
and will that be resolved before the beijing games? both of those aspects of the australian situation and the canadian situation, and there's talk of boycotts, moving the games, delaying them another year. the national olympic committees don't want that. they just want to compete. they don't want politics to enter into it. but we can't help and avoid that that might occur, because of the strong political, you know, problems that are on at the moment. china won't want to give up the gains -- the games. it's the first time that games will be in a same city for winter and summer. that's a first. and they've got the infrastructure done. and they'll run technically are very good games. so they don't want that to occur. and if they move the games, china might be willing to pull out of the olympic movement. it's a shame. they're currently first on the medal tally, so the world doesn't want to see that, neither does the ioc, and i don't the athletes want to see that, so we're in a situation -- an interesting six months to see if there'll be a lobby to have some changes occur for the beijing games. hazem: an interesting six months. barbara, what what do you think
is likely to happen with those winter games in in early 2022? -- winter games in early 2022? >> well, what i wanted to mention, because you earlier said that, you know, the postponement was only by one, and i think maybe richard said that, but that ideally, it would have been better to postpone it for two years, but it was decided against. and, you know, there were many reasons why, but one probably is also that japan really wanted to hold these olympics, because there's always been that rivalry between japan and china, and to be the first nation to hold -- well, it's not anymore, post-pandemic, but pandemic games was really important for japan, and not to give that to china. but you know, i don't know what's going to happen in the next six months. every day, things change so much, that i would not dare to give any assumptions about what
we're going to be seeing in the next six months. hazem: fair enough. ross griffin, if some sort of a boycott does happen, and i'm not saying it will, for china, for beijing in 2022, what will be the ramifications of that, do you think? >> it's hard to say. in my own personal opinion, i think money talks in these things, so i don't see any -- i don't see any boycott happening, and i don't see any delay in the games happening, if contracts are signed by television companies and sponsors, i think the games are going to go ahead. if you want some hint as to how things could pan out, i think looking at the russian olympic committee team, as it's called in these games, might give you some clue in all of these boycotts. it's incredibly unfair to punish the athletes, i think, who have spent their entire lives -- not just four-year segments -- training for each of these individual games.
so if there was a boycott, it would be largely symbolic, with the athletes still being allowed to compete, albeit under the mish-mash of different colored track suits and songs, instead of anthems, that we currently see with the russian olympic committee, which is still a russian team. it has all the markers of nationalism down to the red, white, and blue tracksuits that they wear on the podium. but it's just not called a russia team on the medals table. hazem: yeah, what did you make of that, richard, the fact that russian athletes are still essentially allowed to compete, they just can't compete under the russian flag? does did that seem like a sort of compromise that didn't really address the issue? >> yes, it definitely was a small slap on the wrist, so for all intents and purposes there, they've got a team there, they just can't play their anthem, but, you know, they can count the medal tally, although it's
under roc, instead of russia, it's really a small slap on the wrist. some athletes think it was an american swimmer that said, "i wonder what would happen if i that russian athlete wasn't here," hinting at some drug issues still there, but the athletes are the ones that are punished. so it's a small slap in the wrist, i think, very shortly, we'll see russia back in full swing, and very well in beijing, which those games will be interesting, as we got six months to see, and the only thing they've talked about -- some minor changes to how they might support the games. for example, politicians and key people from countries might not go to beijing they might stay home so china wouldn't have to use the order of all the top officials and politicians in the world coming. so there could be other things that occur with respect to that. athletes may be some type of protests in support of that
despite the ioc regulations. money talks, like ross said. it's going to be interesting. i don't think anyone wants to see them canceled. it will be an interesting months between now and then. hazem: all right, we'll have to leave it there. thanks very much to all three of you, richard baka, barbara holthus, and ross griffin. thanks very much for being on inside story. -- for being on "inside story." and thank you, as always, for watching. remember, you can see this program again anytime by visiting our website, aljazeera.com. and for further discussion, go to our facebook page, facebook.com/ajinsidestory. you can also join the conversation on twitter. our handle there is @ajinsidestory. from me, hazem sika, and the whole team here, bye for now. ♪
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