Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The World Cup - Testing the Overall Strengths of Cultures and Countries that Extend Beyond Sports
YAMAGUCHI Ko / Journalist on International Affairs

June 18, 2010
June 11 marked the opening of the World Cup soccer tournament, the world’s most hotly pursued international sports event alongside the Olympics. Nelson Mandela, former President of host country South Africa, described the first ever World Cup on African soil as "one of the greatest events in Africa's history" in his message to the Congress of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

The World Cup is also a huge international sports venue where the light and shadow of politics and business intersect. Revenues from World Cup 2006 held in Germany is said to have reached $2.85 billion, while this year's World Cup in South Africa is expected to generate even more cash due to the surging price of broadcasting rights, etc. Politics played a major role in the 2002 tournament jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea. Similarly, the decision to hold the event in South Africa was backed by the political ambitions of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, whose goal is to spread soccer's popularity throughout the globe.

Blatter was re-elected President in 1998 thanks to votes garnered from African countries. Despite major challenges including concerns over public safety and setbacks in stadium construction, Blatter kept his election promise by overcoming numerous obstacles and bringing the tournament to South Africa. I sincerely wish for the success of this World Cup.

Only two years' ago, when I visited Cape Town for the World Newspaper Congress, the stadium there had been a mere framework, and even local newspapers were worrying about whether it could be completed in time.

The World Cup is a festival that extends over a month, during which the contenders must struggle through seven games. This requires stringent self management as well as unwavering concentration and fighting spirit on the part of the teams and players that participate. It could be described as an arena in which the strengths of a country's culture and capabilities are put to the test through the game of soccer.

In the initial group stage, "Samurai Japan" will take on Cameroon, the Netherlands and Denmark in the highly competitive Group E. Whether Japan will be able to proceed to the next stage will be the greatest highlight in the first half of the tournament.

Cameroon in particular boasts a track record of beating defending champion Argentina in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup tournament and becoming the first African nation to reach the Semi-finals.

I hope the Japanese team will make a good showing. I served as the Spokesperson for the Japanese Organizing Committee in the Japan-South Korea World Cup in 2002. The experience made me realize that the World Cup holds a significance that goes beyond that of a festival of sports. While the international media is usually focused on politics, economics, military affairs or diplomacy, playing well in the tournament can make overnight stars out of a newly emerging country or a small country that hardly ever hits the headlines. Apart from following the victory or defeat of one's national team, the major highlight of the World Cup lies in watching how the participating teams and countries demonstrate their overall capabilities. In other words, countries compete over their communication ability through the World Cup.

The decline in Japan's overall ability to communicate information, including its "soft power," has been noted repeatedly, and we have so far been unable to come up with an effective solution in the area of politics or the economy. Japan recently lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, and various obstacles remain before the Japan Football Association can realize its dream of hosting another World Cup tournament in Japan.

Recently, Kan Naoto was elected Prime Minister in a new Democratic Party government, and Upper House elections are likely to take place around the time of the final match of the World Cup. I hope this World Cup in South Africa will give us an opportunity to demonstrate the overall strengths of the Japanese people.

The writer is former head of the International Bureau of Kyodo News Agency and former Spokesperson for the Organizing Committee of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

山口 光 /  ジャーナリスト

2010年 6月 18日






日本チームの活躍を祈りたい。 私は日韓共催のFIFAワールドカップ大会で、日本組織委員会スポークスマンを務めたが、この経験からワールドカップ大会がスポーツ祭典を超える大きな意義をもつことを実感する。政治、経済、軍事、外交などが中心となるマスメディアの国際報道で、ふだんはほとんど登場することのない新興国や小国がこの大会での活躍で一夜にして世界中の注目を集めたりする。W杯の重要な見どころは、自国のチームの勝敗だけでなく、その試合の過程で浮かび上がるそれぞれの参加チームや参加国の総合力がどのように発揮されるかという点だ。ワールドカップを通しての情報発信力の競争と言い換えてもいい。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The World Cup - Testing the Overall Strengths of Cultures and Countries that Extend Beyond Sports