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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #240: August 12, 2004

Japan Shoots First Olympic Victory

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan Shoots First Olympic Victory"
Mainichi Daily News


The Olympic Charter stipulates in detail many ways about what it is and how it should be run. One of the rules says that the duration of the Games should not exceed 16 days. By employing an exceptional clause to that regulation, this years Games starts on 13th and ends on 30th of August - one day longer but without any competition on 13th to meet the rules. When they found out that the number of days allocated would not be enough to have all the matches played within the timeframe, some were scheduled to begin a couple of days before the formal start of the Games. The reason was more likely to be logistic rather than linguistic, but it was soccer that made the flying start, or to "kick off" the competition in real terms.

As the article reports, the very first games in this year's Olympics were the four of women's soccer qualification games, in one of which the Japanese team beat last year's World Cup runner-up, Sweden 1-0. As it was the very first competition for Japan, the victory was cheerfully received by the Japanese delegation of more than three hundred athletes and two hundred officials, and of course the people back home.

Arguably, Japan is the country most closely following the ideals of the Olympics. Those are the same Japanese people who, at times seem to despise the country's flag, by deliberately ignoring - or even accusing - its existence at local gatherings, and at other times who passionately wave the national flag at their athletes as spectators, feeling proud when the flag is raised as a symbol of their countrymen's victory. Indeed, for Japan, Olympics is something to suspend the hostility and confrontation in the land, just like in the days of the ancient Olympics.

Another ideal of the Olympics is amateurism. It used to be that the competitors had to be "amateurs" to participate in the Olympics. The rule itself is long gone, with remnants in stipulations such as, "The entry or participation of a competitor in the Olympic Games shall not be conditional on any financial consideration." (A part of bylaw to Rule 45 of the Olympic Charter.) But there seem to be those, especially among Japanese, who feel certain sense of romanticism, or cleanness, in athletes being amateurs, resonating with the Olympic motto of "faster, higher, stronger."

If there is something special about the Japan's women soccer team, it is the fact that all of the players, except one member, are amateurs in the genuine sense of the word, They make a living working elsewhere, such as salesclerks or factory workers. Although the community provides the space for training, balls and other rigs are borne by donations and, sometimes, out of pockets of the members. They could practice and rehearse only during evenings and holidays, for a couple of hours each at most. It is only their passion for soccer that has brought them to the Olympics, and mark an astonishing win - as described by some media - against the team which fought the final game at last year's World Cup against Germany.

Let them fare well.

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