Natalie Bakopoulos: For the games Athens created a new airport, a gorgeous subway and tram system, and a national highway, all which function still. Athens is a certainly a city of ancient ruins, and because of this we often conflate the ancient with the modern. But ruins of an ancient civilization are not the same as the wreckage of an economically devastated city. Viewing it through this lens takes pleasure in its devastation, stunts progress and change, and completely disregards the living, working humanity of the city. Athens has seen better days, but it is still kicking and alive.
Tokyo, 1964 (and 2020?)
Last summer, Tokyo lost its lights. This summer, they’re back, as bright as ever. And in every fluoro-lit subway station – running again on a minute-by-minute schedule – hang posters advertising the city’s Olympic bid.
‘Ima, Nippon ni wa kono yume no chikara ga hitsuyoda (Japan needs the power of this dream now)’ asserts the official slogan for the games they’ve dubbed the Japan Revival Olympics.
But whose dreams? Whose needs? Whose power?
Whatever the legacy of the 1964 games, whatever the benefits of bringing them back in 2020, they seem to have little to do with restoring the dreams and lives shattered last spring.
But the brightness, it’s blinding.
Read these and several other writers' accounts of life after the Olympics, around the world, at Granta magazine.