Celebrating Asia: World Cup 2002
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
An "amazing start to the World Cup" was how the BBC rated the opening ceremony and the stunning upset of Senegal over the reigning World Cup champions, France. However, despite the BBC's encouraging review, the run-up to this month long soccer celebration was viewed with doubt. Questions abounded as to whether Japan and South Korea were really up to the task.
Prior to the kick-off, there were many questions surrounding the ability of two Asian states to successfully co-host the games. These concerns related to the idea that they were inexperienced in dealing with security matters. There was worry over whether the competition would be able to draw enough spectators so far away. Individual teams, in particular the European ones, were afraid that the "strange" atmosphere would affect their standard of play. In essence, there was a sincere sense of mistrust about Japan and Korea's ability to host what was thought to be Europe's and South America's most coveted competition.
In the few days preceding the truly spectacular opening ceremony, newspaper headlines in Europe and North America added to this doubt. Mark Magnier of the LA Times painted a paranoid and over reacting Japan calling its reaction "arguably bordering on the extreme" (May 27). He portrayed a Japan that was afraid of what was to come, as though thousands of soldiers were about to invade its territory. In his words, "the prospects of thousands of large, loud, drunk, foreign, out-of-control soccer rowdies invading their peaceful country at the end of the month for the World Cup has Japanese bolting their doors and bracing for the worst".
Barry Wilner of the Associated Press voiced concerns about Japan's ability to organize large scale events such as the World Cup. He exclaimed that the World Cup was, "supposed to be a celebration of the world's most popular sport. Instead, the build up to the World Cup has been plagued by ticket problems, arrests, complaints to in-fighting" (May 28).
In respect to in-fighting, the international press has continuously taken up the political feuds that surround South Korea and Japan with individuals such as Aidan Foster-Carter, who was featured in the International Herald Tribune, stating that both countries would rather have hosted the cup alone (May 30).
In general, Eric Talmadge's article in the Associated Press summed up the dominant attitude in the West. "The problem is, Japan isn't really a soccer country. And it shows!" (May 29)
However, everything changed on May 31. The incredible show put on by South Korea in the opening ceremonies and the fantastic upset witnessed immediately following demonstrated the world around that this will be one of the most exciting tournaments ever witnessed. Each and every match since, has provided stunning action with extremely enthusiastic support.
Both Japan and Korea have been hyped about co-hosting the World Cup for four years. A craze has embraced the two with much positive emotion spreading throughout the rest of Asia as well. This celebration has provided the continent, and in particular Japan and South Korea, with the opportunity to send a clear message to the rest of the world, that Asia is a fun, brilliant and fantastically important part of the world community. It is hoped that this event will bring Asia closer together and give it higher visibility on the international scene, for there is much more that Asia can do for and with the world.
- "Amazing Start to World Cup", BBC, 31 May 2002
- Aidan Foster-Carter, "Time for South Korea and Japan to make up", International Herald Tribune, 30 May 2002
- Eric Talmadge, "Yokohama prepares for Cup Final", The Associated Press, 29 May 2002
- Barry Wilner, "Ticket Woes, Arrests at World Cup", The Associated Press, 28 May 2002
- Mark Magnier, "Keeping soccer thugs calm is Japan's goal", LA Times 27 May 2002