Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A legacy lost?

With three years to go until the Summer 2020 Olympics Japan is currently in the process of realising it has a new issue on its hands. The stadium debacle is well known (though the focus has been on cost rather than arguably political expediency) as is the problem of a plagiarised logo followed closely by the men only golf club voting to admit women only on pain of losing the event and the uproar of restaurants across the capital that if smoking is banned then their customers will be unfairly impacted and go elsewhere (not to smoke?).

But the realisation that, due to the structure of the system, there are actually insufficient teachers, both Japanese and international, able to raise the level of English (whether you like it or not, it is the default global language) of their students to a basic communication level, effectively sounds the death knell of 2020 being an international tournament accessible by the majority of the country. It will be a domestic sporting event, all be it an outstanding one performed on the stage of the combined live world media. But here it is now unlikely to raise and inspire a new generation to look beyond the coastline. Which wouldn't be such a problem if the country didn't have another problem with the ever declining base population. 

Unfortunately the base population is set to decline by over 20% in the next thirty years and soon after the ratio of working population to those already retired will be approaching parity. Japan, the world's third richest economy has just ranked 40 out of 48 surveyed countries in a UN study on English as a second language. The day the doors need to open and even basic care workers are welcomed in, this skill would soften the surprise of a foreigner at the front door. Japan can turn on a dime when needed, but with the best will in the world you don't wake up in the morning fluent in a new language. It takes time, commitment and not a little inspiration. This Olympic legacy has sadly probably already been lost. Time for a re-think.

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