In the fall of 1964, I was a little girl living in Tokyo, fixated with the Olympic spectacle that was unfolding right in front of my eyes in my hometown.
I immersed myself in every victory and defeat. I cheered Don Schollander's four gold medals in swimming. I was transfixed by Abebe Bikila's running, and winning, the marathon--barefoot.
Japan introduced judo to the Olympics that year, only to suffer a collective shock when a gaijin (foreigner) from the Netherlands, Anton Geesink, won the gold medal in the Open category. Japan's men's gymnastics team raked in a cluster of medals and captivated the home fans. But the local audience was equally charmed by the elegance of Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, a full-figured blond who took the gold in the Women's Individual All-Round.
The whole country stayed up to watch the live broadcast of the Japanese women's volleyball team as it won the gold.
The list goes on.
The Games that year were a powerful turning point--for me as well as my country. Although I didn't consciously mark the occasion at that time, I later realized that the pride I shared with my countrymen and the personal exhilaration I experienced that October were feelings that come just once in a lifetime. Above all--and perhaps for the first time in a nation long isolated from its global neighbors--the concept of "international community" impressed itself on the minds of the Japanese people.
In this issue of EE Times, we bring you a special section on the Beijing Olympics, hailed as among the highest-tech competitions ever to be staged. We identify 10 new technologies that will be deployed during the Games and discuss what the event means to China. In addition to the special section, our cover story (page 22) focuses on a brewing technological controversy: Should China's TD-SCDMA 3G cellular standard, which will debut at the Games, ever have been conceived?
The goal of our Olympics coverage is to showcase the considerable technological progress made by China's industry. But more important, we hope to shed light on China itself--a vast country run by a network of competing government agencies, independent-minded local regulators, devout capitalists, flagrant opportunists and (lest we forget) a central authority with a long and dubious record on civil liberties and human rights.
It's easy to be jaded about today's heavily commercialized Olympics, especially compared with those seemingly innocent days of 1964. The enormous capital investment poured into the competition is a turnoff to some observers. The hype, the greed and the antics of certain athletes leave a bad taste. The worst offense, to my mind, is TV coverage that too often crosses the line into nationalism, even jingoism.
Nonetheless, I remember to this day that, for me, the "hometown Olympics" back in 1964 brought the wider world close for the first time. I spoke little English. I had never set foot outside Japan. The same could be said of most of my circle of friends and acquaintances. Few of us had ever met a foreigner in the flesh. The extent of our knowledge and experience with people abroad were the TV caricatures on "Leave it to Beaver" and "Lassie."
So I was thrilled that so many gaijin--not just athletes, but tourists as well--had come to Japan to experience the Olympics firsthand. I even vaguely understood the significance of playing host to the world. The Tokaido Shinkansen, Japan's bullet train, opened on Oct. 1, 1964, in time for the Olympics. The freshly built Olympic stadiums and arenas were futuristic. The monorail connecting Haneda Airport to the center of Tokyo seemed straight out of a sci-fi fantasy. Tokyo then (and thereafter) was filled with construction sites.
Indeed, the Tokyo Olympics and its ancillary milestones (Japan joined the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, for example, in 1964) without question pushed Japan onto the global stage.
As I reflect on the experience of 1964, I can't help wondering what effect Beijing '08 will have on China. Undoubtedly, this summer's event will be an economic and morale booster for the host country, just as the '64 Games were for Japan.
But let's also hope that the Olympics will open the door for the young people of China to see what foreigners-- y gou lun--are really like, and to see themselves as citizens of a potentially free society and an open and peaceful world.
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Junko Yoshida (email@example.com) is editor in chief of EE Times.