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2008年5月 9日 (金)


(Apr. 27, 2008)

Festive spirit absent in run-up to '08 Games

聖火護送リレー 「平和の祭典」からはほど遠い(4月27日付・読売社説)

The Japanese leg of the Olympic torch relay in Nagano was completed largely without incident Saturday, and the torch has now been handed over to Seoul, the next venue of the relay.


Had there been major disturbances, TV footage of such scenes likely would have triggered an emotional response from the Chinese people. It was previously pointed out that such a situation could result in directing Chinese people's patriotic nationalism, which is symbolized by the current anti-French campaign, toward Japan.


Nagano municipal government officials and police who were tasked with ensuring the security of the event in Nagano must have been greatly relieved after the 80 torchbearers completed the 18.7-kilometer journey without major disruption.


Relay seems pointless

Nevertheless, the entire event was highly unusual. It was a far cry from the image of peace and harmony that the Olympics aims to project.

Chinese flags big and small lined the route, and many Chinese students in the country kept pace with the torchbearers, waving Chinese flags. Members of human rights organizations holding Tibetan flags voiced their protest against Beijing's crackdown on Tibet.



As the torch relay was heavily guarded by about 100 police officers, many spectators were probably unable to catch even a glimpse of the torchbearers.


Many people watching the event live on TV must have wondered what was the point of holding the torch relay under such conditions.

Some people described the relay as "citizen-free" and as a "torch convoy."



There has been a series of severe obstructions in almost every city through which the Olympic torch has passed. Under the circumstances, it is unavoidable that concerned cities and police authorities go on full alert, prioritizing the safety of the torch.


Ball in China's court

We have freedom of speech in this country. Clamping down on certain political activities prior to the relay was therefore out of the question. The measures taken in the Nagano event appear to have been inevitable.


During the relay, six people were arrested for attempting to obstruct the torch relay procession or otherwise disrupt it. Some demonstrators hurled flyers at the procession. But although there were scuffles between pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators that resulted in injuries, the event was not seriously marred.


The Chinese government fervently hopes to boost national prestige through staging the Olympics in Beijing. Despite the chorus of sharp criticism from around the world against China's Tibet policy, which has ended up linking that policy to the Olympics, Beijing has maintained a tough stance on the Tibet issue, rejecting such criticism as "interference in domestic affairs."


China remains far apart from the international community in terms of its sense of human rights issues.


Beijing has finally expressed its willingness to resume a dialogue with a representative of the Dalai Lama, the supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism. But this should not end up mere posturing for the sake of the Olympics.


Can the current depressing atmosphere surrounding the Olympics be improved so the Games can be an enjoyable sports festival? It all depends on China.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2008)

20084270146  読売新聞)


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