The summer and winter Olympic Games are the largest transnational multi-sport events in the world. These great sporting festivals are officially held under the auspices of the designated Olympic city and its citizens, as the Olympic Charter rules that state governments and nations do not host the Games. But governments frequently manipulate sports as a weapon of foreign policy and use the Olympic Games to enhance their own national image.
With the 1964 Tokyo Olympics underway in his home town on the other side of the globe, Yutaro Mizoguchi settles into life in this historic city surrounded by the French Alps. A graduate student in structural geology, he is as eager to explore the mountains of this foreign land as he was when he avidly climbed peaks in Japan as an alpinist.
But Yutarofs adventurousness is not limited to mountaineering. As the preparation for Grenoblefs own Olympics begin to take shape, the Japanese maverickfs boundless enthusiasm collides with the various forces that are vying to influence the effect of the Games. Indeed, more than simply being a spectator, the young man finds himself becoming involved in the competition to use the Olympics for national prestige or civic improvement. With President de Gaulle trying to use the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics to show off French vigor and glory, Yutarofs beliefs in the ideals of the Olympics are challenged.
From Yutarofs unique position as both outsider and participant in the events leading up to the Grenoble Olympics, he witnesses the aspirations, struggles, and comedies of politicians, athletes and ordinary citizens. He also confronts firsthand the petty politics, infighting, and bickering among the officials representing their countries at the Games. By the time that the Grenoble Games have come and gone, the young man has learned that while the Olympics happen only once every four years, their lessons are timeless.
The Olympic Games grew in importance as an arena of international politics during the twentieth century. The nation-state and nationalist movements, on the other hand, are products of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the information revolution, national borders and the concept of the nation-state have become less significant. Yet forceful interventions by state governments have persisted. In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the German government under Hitler manipulated the Olympic torch relay for military reconnaissance work and wielded the Games as a stage to display the strength of Nazis regime to the world. Even in this new century, the Chinese government is now making the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics look like the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Olympic torchfs journey has been surrounded by battalions of patriotic Chinese students waving Chinafs red national flag with yellow stars but not the Olympic flag..
The Beijing Olympics give the deja vu sensation of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Unions were military-oriented authoritarian regimes and nationalistic states like China is today. Both one-party undemocratic states collapsed and disappeared within ten years after their Olympic pageants. The history of the twentieth century teaches us that the Olympics are meant to be a coming-out party for emerging countries. The Olympic god Zeus does not accept Olympic festivities with authoritarians and warmongers.
Based on a real story, this is an inspiring tale of a young manfs encounter with one of the most important cultural phenomena of modern times. Along with providing a stunning behind-the-scenes glimpse of the true nature of the Games, it documents the actual conditions that affected the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics. It can be appreciated as both memoir and history. Readers can also enjoy its tacit predictions in the style of the ancient Greek prophet Cassandra.
It is said that a traveler goes abroad to discover himself, and discovers wisdom, after making many journeys through wilderness and frontier territory, that no one else can make for him. In this sense, my experience of studying abroad in my mid-twenties at the University of Grenoble in France blessed my life with fortune colored by rich experience.
When I got very tired after long days in the classroom, the best books to recreate my stressed brain were always books of Goethefs poetry and Greek mythology. Since I was a young boy, I loved to read travel accounts and old legends from around the world. I felt very excited whenever I saw a first chapter begin with gOnce upon a timech When I was growing up, my most admired hero was Apollo, who is the god of the sun, light, healing, music, poetry, prophecy, and truth.
Half a century later, it is a great pleasure to write a book preface with the sentence gOnce upon an Olympian time. There was a group of twelve gods including Zeus, his wife Hera, and their family and relatives, who were said to live half way up Mount Olympusch
After millions of years of cosmic time, the Greek people started the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. at the small village of Olympia. Originally, the Games were a religious festival to honor both Zeus, king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, and the god of the sky, thunder, and justice and his wife Hera and the other gods of Mount Olympus. The sanctuary of Zeus is Olympia, where there is the Olympic stadium and the temple of Zeus. The temple of Zeus once housed a gigantic ivory and gold statue of Zeus that was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The ancient Olympic Games were only for male participants who spoke Greek. The Games were held at Olympia from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D. The Olympic Games were hosted at four year intervals and used the term eOlympiadf for the period between the Games.
The Ancient Olympics were a great contribution by the Greek people and perhaps their most important invention. The Olympics transformed humanityfs combative instinct into a sports competition. The Greeks changed the Olympic Games from wild fighting to regulated competition. The Olympics thereby replaced war.
Fifteen-hundred years later, the tradition of Olympic Games was revived in 1896 by the French nobleman Baron de Coubertin. He conceived an international sport competition to promote athletes. Coubertin adopted the motto gCitius, Altius, Fortius,h which means gSwifter, Higher, Stronger,h This wonderful sentiment inspires athletes from all over the world.
The current Olympic Games are an international multi-sport event comprised of the Summer and Winter Games. A celebration known as the cultural Olympiad was also established to include cultural events such as art, music, architecture in the modern Olympic movement. Thus the Olympic Games are much more than the worldfs largest sporting event. They are also an international political and cultural events.
It was an unexpected, strange, yet excellent opportunity for me to participate in the 1967 Pre-Olympics as an athlete for the Japanese luge team and then become an Olympic official. I later become Olympic attache for the city of Grenoble in 1968 Winter Games. My observations and experiences in these two different roles enriched me with behind-the-scenes knowledge of the Olympic movement. They also affected my view of the politics in the Olympics. Most people believe that the Olympic Games are an athletic competition and cultural festivity for youth. However, the untold secret is that the Olympics are a time when special salons are held behind closed doors for aristocrats and noble families as an Olympian reunion.
There is an important rule of thumb that prohibits the disclosure of any information about the kinds of private parties and salons that go on at the Olympics. Consequently, the reader should look between two lines of this book without missing its tacit knowledge. However, I would like to suggest a hint: one secret of the aristocratic salons lies in the book cover designs use the Olympic rings with crowns. Many princes and noblemen disguised themselves as leaders, managerial advisors, and patrons of each team during the Olympic competition, and they were also elegant hosts and guests at the Olympicsf private evening parties.
This book is not Johann Wolfgang von Goethefs epic of the romantic and stormy life of Wilhelm Meister, but just the story of my modest and short apprenticeship years, along with an Olympic rhapsody in Grenoble, during the late 1960fs.
The 1960fs were a wonderful period for the original Olympic vision of Baron de Coubertin, who proclaimed that athletes should be gentlemen who considered only amateurs as a qualified participants. At this time sport professionals were not allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. Professional athletes were deemed to have an unfair advantage over those whose training was merely a pleasure and hobby. It was also a time when Coubertinfs Olympic spirit was still respected and supported by the majority of athletes. Coubertinfs belief was that the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. It signifies life is less about triumph than the struggle in life itself.
Commercial and media saturation were also less predominant than today. The degrees of financial involvement and commercialism were far more modest. I was very lucky to be an eye-witness at this turning point of Olympic character and behavior.
The stories about the Winter Olympics described in this book are gathered from my diary and records I wrote on memo pads during my stay at the University of Grenoble. I arranged these stories in the style of a semi-documentary novel from 1970 until the spring of 1971, and aimed to have this book published before the start of the Sapporo Winter Olympics in February 1972.
By fall of 1971, my publisher had nearly completed the preparations for making the book. But when the book was going to press and being bound, an emergency notice calling for cancellation of the bookfs publication came to me in Calgary, Canada, where I was living at the time.
In his explanation for the publicationfs sudden discontinuation, the chief editor said that because a potentially problematic detail within the text had been discovered at the last minute, he had first tried to cut the part in question to resolve his issue. Yet the publisherfs president got wind of this trouble and read the book. It was because the president said that the bookfs publication could not be allowed, that determined the publication had to be stopped. The president thought if a terrorist attack harmed the Japanese imperial family and the culprit confessed that he had read this book and picked up its suggestions, the publisher would be unable to sufficiently apologize, even after bankruptcy. So, despite the effort of a half-year of editing work and the money already invested, the publisherfs president decided that he would rather avoid being entangled in possible trouble.
The text did discuss both the prospect that revolt could occur as the result of the athletesf dissatisfaction, and the possibility of terrorism. Nonetheless, the sudden suspension of the bookfs publication was a distressing experience for a young man who was in the midst of his own spiritual evolution. My virgin work had been visited with a fate that was tantamount to abortion. Its life was cut off before it could be born. It was tucked away in the corner of my closet.
As it turned out, a boycott by athletes did occur at the Sapporo Games, and there was an incident in which one countryfs athletes returned home after another countryfs athletes imposed their flag on them. However, a worse event took place six months later at the Munich Summer Olympic Games. In September 1972, Israeli athletes were massacred by terrorists in the Olympic Village.
It surprised me that terrorism materialized in Munich and not Sapporo. It also made me wonder if my virgin work had been published as scheduled before the Sapporo Winter Games, if its warning about terrorism had seen the light of day, the tragedy in Munich might have been avoided.
I totally abandoned this bookfs publication because I was preoccupied with the premonition that Japan would be struck with an oil crisis. In 1970, I penned an article entitled gOil is Japanfs Achillesf Heelh. This was targeted by general magazines. But no editor believed that an oil crisis would come. The manuscript was finally printed a year later in 1971.
Around the time the Sapporo Winter Games ended in February 1972, I completed the manuscript of a book called The Oil Crisis and Japanfs Fate. I conducted publishing negotiations with more than ten publishers, yet I was continually refused. This book became another virgin work, and came out in April 1973. Because no one anticipated an oil crisis, this book sold less than 1,000 copies during its first six months. But under the influence of the oil crisis that broke out with the war in the Middle East in October that year, the book quickly became a bestseller and sold close to 100,000 copies. I learned that a momentfs insight, coupled with a bewildered premonition for a future shock, can sometimes be worth a lifefs experience.
Twenty-six years after the Sapporo Games, it was decided that Nagano, a mountain town in the so-called Japanese Alps, would host the Winter Olympics in 1998. But these Olympic Games that were the first in Japan for quite some time became an undertaking for national policy. Because corruption was rampant in the large-scale construction for the Olympic preparations and many projects turned into interests of grafters, Naganofs citizens grew increasingly discontent. Citizensf movements appeared that refused these Olympics.
In the presence of this situation I wanted to dig up the spirit of Grenoble. I searched my closet for the manuscript of this book and tried negotiations again, with the goal of having the book published before the Nagano Winter Games. Every publisher said that the bookfs subject was too old, or that there was no interest in talk about a foreign country. More than ten publishers turned down the book, while only time itself progressed. Even so, one year before the opening in February 1998 of the Nagano Games, a mere one thousand copies were printed. Thirty years later, this book had gained back its vitality and finally come to life.
A considerable amount of work was involved before the book was eventually published. The most publishing companies I have ever been declined by for one work is 39. Even famous works that are read by many readers in posterity have been refused for various reasons.
-The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck ? No Americans are interested in a Chinese story.
-The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells ? The story is a terrible nightmare that no one will accept.
-Animal Farm by George Orwell ? In America it is impossible to sell an animal story.
What is more interesting is the case of Friedrich Nietzsche. There was no publisher that would accept the fourth part of his masterpiece Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So Nietzsche printed only forty copies as private editions and gave these to seven people. Compared to Nietzschefs situation, I was fortunate to have 1,000 copies of my work published. Even though the number of copies was small, the book was published commercially, not privately.
Also, in my case, welcome events were already piling up. In Asia, onefs sixtieth birthday is viewed as the age of zero that means new birth. The second coming of this bookfs virgin publication also corresponded with the eternal recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft) spoken of in Zarathustra. This was an auspicious occurrence equivalent to the birth of new life, and it was a pleasure to feel that my work must have been blessed with words of affirmation.
In this happy train of thought, the decision to have the work translated into an English edition was born. The birth of the English translation would be linked to a French edition. The bookfs description of the periphery of contemporary French political history makes it more than just a document about French politics in the time of de Gaulle. The Grenoble Games also served as a marker for observing movements in the world. Three months after the Grenoble Winter Olympicsf closing ceremony, the May Incident occurred that shook the whole of France. This incident signaled that the classical de Gaulle-style political system had arrived at its end, and that frustrations in France had reached a tipping point.
In general, the disturbances that emerged in the eMay Crisisf in May 1968 were based in student rebellion against university reform. Because these disturbances paralyzed French society, there are some people who conceive the May Incident as Francefs version of the Cultural Revolution. However, from the viewpoint of civilization, the May Incident was actually a precursor to the information revolution. Intellectuals and students raised opposition flags against the administrative system that monopolized information and the organization of politics. Part of the movement revolved around the axis of Grenoblefs citizensf party, as well as the opposition of the Olympic athletes to COJO, the French Olympic Committee.
De Gaullefs opposition to the Cold War system of America and Russia actually began in the form of the regionsf desire for autonomy from de Gaullefs rule. This desire was manifested in a structural movement whose focus was decentralization from centralized government. In its climax, it caused a spasm in Francefs autocratic politics and led to the domino-like collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet system.
Because having a skilled opponent is more educative than having a weak ally, de Gaulle was a statesman whom I was both proud and fortunate to have opposed. De Gaulle said that he always thought he was Jeanne dfArc and Napoleon Bonaparte, which caused me to learn the attitude and behavior of the English and Russian people who were the major enemies of Jeanne dfArc and Napoleon. Furthermore, because de Gaulle was a gifted statesman, revolution did not accompany the May Incident. The disturbances came to an end. Revolution is not simply an uprising against the existing order. The May Incident did not set up a new order that contradicted the de Gaulle regime. The baton of the French presidency was then passed along by George Pompidou (1911-74), Valery Giscard dfEstaing (1926- ), Francois Mitterand (1926-1996), and Jacques Chirac (1932- Present). Eternal return has been perpetuated in a small-scale spiral pattern, and a clear-headed meta-structure has been preserved in French culture.
The story of this book ends on the night of the closing ceremony of the X Winter Games at Grenoble on February 18, 1968. I have omitted the epilogue portion from the unpublished 1971 version for this book because of its troubled and obsolete prediction of a terrorist attack at the Sapporo Games. Moreover, everyone already knows what happened at Munich in September 1972.
The year 1968 went on to be very interesting. Less than three months after the closing ceremony, the May Incident exploded in France and ignited many student revolts all over the world. Four years later, at the next Olympiad, a terrorist act at an Olympic event became a terrible reality and drastically changed the character and behavior of the Olympics. The most inspiring ideal of the Ancient Olympics was a moratorium on war during the Games. We should respect and adopt this sublime principle.
Until the end of the 1960s, the modern Olympic Games preserved the wonderful spirit of amateurism and chivalry embodied in the traditional motto of English public schools, gA sound mind in a healthy body.h It was during the 1970s that the Olympicsf character changed entirely under the influence of American businessmenfs free market-philia and commercialism. Now the Olympics have become a money-making show business, and most people, including the athletes and spectators, consider winning more important than taking part with fairness. Hugh financial stakes and strong commercial interest have since come to saturate the Olympic stadium with the television screens in every home. The temple of Zeus has a new tenant: Mammon.
Consequently, it now feels better to end my story at the closing day of the X Winter Olympics at Grenoble on February 18, 1968. This was a day that was a turning point in Olympic history. I believe that I gave my best efforts at that moment. I now need to pass the baton to the next generation so it can meet its own challenges and define its own experiences. When I try recalling the memory of my brief engagement in Olympic-related activities when I was a young foreign student, I feel like a magician who has emptied his hand and yet still possesses everything.
Before closing this preface, I would like to extend my appreciation to Mr. Scott Wilbur and Miss Remie Fujiwara for their achievement in translating my book from Japanese into English. Without the zeal and wishful cooperation of these two young people, the essence of my experience would never have reached the next generation of the world.
Palm Desert, California Winter Solstice 2007