Tokyo diary: South Korea and Japan turn back the clock

·2-min read

• With early coverage of the Games inevitably focused on coronavirus, geopolitical tensions have barely had a look-in. But South Korea and its former colonial ruler Japan are doing their best to revive the Olympic tradition. They have clashed over politically charged banners hanging from the South Korean team’s balconies, while a planned appearance by the country’s president, Moon Jae-in, was abruptly cancelled after a Japanese diplomat in Seoul accused him of “masturbating” over a potential summit with his Japanese counterpart, Yoshihide Suga.

• Visiting reporters are unlikely to elicit much sympathy from the Japanese public as they document the coronavirus-shaped hoops they have to jump through to cover events at Tokyo 2020. After all, they are guests in a country where most people would rather they had stayed at home.

But most have gone about their work with little complaint and copious praise for their patient and friendly hosts. There have been humorous references to vials of spit collected for testing, shared concerns about notices in hotel lobbies warning of “consequences” should anyone attempt an illicit visit to the nearest convenience store, and grumbles about interminable waits for officially approved buses and taxis.

But not everyone is behaving themselves, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which reported that several unidentified people had lost their accreditation for a day after breaking Olympic “playbook” rules. On a brighter note, there have been rave reviews for the jam sandwiches on offer at the main press centre.

• Back in South Korea, the MBC TV network has apologised after using “inappropriate” images and descriptions to add a touch of colour to live coverage of Friday’s slimmed-down athletes’ parade. Some were guilty of nothing more than a lack of imagination – a pizza for Italy; the Queen and Buckingham Palace for Team GB. Others, though, must have had viewers wondering if producers had taken leave of their senses. Haitian athletes entered the stadium to images of political upheaval, while the Chernobyl disaster accompanied Ukraine’s delegation.

The Marshall Islands, according to MBC, merited nothing more than a mention of their role as a former nuclear test site for the US. A small mercy, perhaps, that North Korea, with which the South is technically still at war, pulled out of the Tokyo Games earlier this year.

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