Friday, 19 February 2010

Introspective Olympics

The front page of Wednesday's Japanese-language Yomiuri Shimbun evening edition leads with the account of a young speed skater who claimed fifth place in the women's 500-metre event. (The winner - a South Korean - was mentioned halfway down the piece.)

At least the Korean got a mention.

The previous day, Japanese male skaters took silver and bronze in the men's 500-meters. Yes, newsworthy, but the 10-minute feature about them on the 9 o'clock NHK news did not mention once who won gold (For your reference, it was another South Korean - Mo Tae Bum).

Turning inside the 16-page evening rag, and page two shows us a posturing Russian chap who scored highest on the figure skating short programme. It has to remembered this is a "sport" many Japanese are obsessed with. The Japanese women's curling team who put one over the Americans were also blown up on the page.

But, it is page three that bothers me. Half the page (not forgetting a huge photograph) is taken up with the spectacular failure of another female skater who came 12th, and below that another large photo and article on a snowboarder who came 14th - You'd have thought she'd won gold given the amount of hype being thrown on her.

It goes on! Page four is headed by a female Japanese biathlete who came in 54th and reportedly "enjoyed herself," and a luger who tobogganed her way to 26th.

There's more on page 15. More pics and analysis of another speed skater who slid to the lofty rank of 16th!.

Five out of 16 pages are dominated by Japanese misadventures in Vancouver. Barely any coverage of anything related to news - You have to get to page 14 to get your first glimpse of anything concerning the rest of the world - a small piece on aid workers in Haiti - and that was only there because the Japanese military has just arrived.

Is Japan really so insular? Does the media here really have to place such gravity on the Olympics. Is anything else happening over the oceans that seem to keep Japan apart from the rest of the world?

Let's take a look at what the world's papers are leading with today (now Friday 19th)

The New York Times leads with a story on Evan Lysacek's gold medal-winning skating performance. Newswise it's a story on the rise of the dollar. All very America-centric.

Le Monde's top story is about a coup d'Etat in Niger and the lead sport story is about a good day for the Norwegians in Vancouver. Altogether a more global outlook.

Die Welt focuses very much on the Fatherland, kicking off with domestic German politics, and in sport, a gold for a German skier.

Looking at Murdoch's babies in Britain, The Times' top report is on Britain's deficit, with Amy Williams, a British skeleton slider, topping the sporting bill. The Currant Bun leads with the headline "Elton: Jesus is a Gay Lord" and Liverpool's scrappy victory over Romanian minnows. Need I say more here.
The Times of India top story is also sport, but this time Indian gold in the Commonwealth Shooting Championship - something I didn't realise existed.

The China Daily predictably harps on about Obama's meeting with the Dalai, but in sport surprisingly goes with the win by Lysacek in the figure skating and a gold by an Australian snowboarder.

While this is a very random and small selection of papers from around the world, the trend seems to be for nations to focus in on themselves rather than look out at the world. Japan is most certainly one of the worst culprits - I mean, five pages of a 16-page paper focus entirely on the blown up hype of a Winter Games that no-one seems to want to host in the future, and four of those pages featuring the spectacular failures of domestic inadequacy.

I feel we all need to open our eyes a little more to a bigger world not painted by inward-looking media organisations.

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