News and Commentary

Acid-Test For Olympic Runners: Bear On The Loose At Tokyo Olympic Games
Asiatic Black Bear
Manoj Shah/GettyI mages

There’s an old joke about two men who are out in the wilderness camping when a bear suddenly appears and growls. One man immediately puts on his gym shoes, prompting the second man to snap, “You can’t outrun a bear.” The first man retorts, “I don’t have to outrun the bear — I just have to outrun you!”

Now the world-class runners, among other athletes competing in the Tokyo summer Olympics, may be hastily putting on their track shoes, as a real-life Asian black bear is on the loose.

“A guard found a bear inside Azuma Sports Park early in the morning yesterday. We also received similar information this morning,” a Fukushima police spokesman told The Japan Times. “We couldn’t find or capture the bear, and while there won’t be any spectators at the stadium, we are on alert and searching for the bear around the site.”

The Sports Hochi daily reported that all the Olympic guards assigned to the Azuma Sports Park searched for the bear through the night, blasting music and let off firecrackers in an attempt to trigger the bear to appear, but to no avail.

“In 2020, bear sightings reached their highest point in five years, with more than 13,600 reported sightings across the country from April to September. At the time, experts said the increase could be linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw residents confined to their homes in an effort to beat back the illness — leading to the animals venturing out into spaces to search for food that would usually be populated with humans,” The Washington Post reported.

In June, a brown bear was shot and killed by hunters in Sapporo, the site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, after it went loose.

The bear plaguing the Olympics is not the only strange aspect of the event; 160,000 condoms have been distributed to the athletes but the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics don’t want athletes to use them in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic, instead preferring them to take them home to spread the message of practicing safe sex. “Olympic officials still prefer that athletes stay away from each other. A playbook outlining safety measures advises Olympic participants to ‘avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact such as hugs, high-fives and handshakes,’” The New York Times reported.

Another problem for the games with another form of life: Japan reportedly spent$1.28 million to deal with oysters in Tokyo Bay, where the Olympic canoeing and rowing events will be held. Floats in the Sea Forest Waterway meant to limit waves on the course started sinking; magaki oysters were sticking to the floats and weighing them down. Over 14 tons of oysters had to be removed.

Even the music for the Games has become problematic; an interview from 1994 with the composer who wrote music that is key to the opening ceremony, Keigo Oyamada, surface in which he bragged about humiliating and bullying a disabled student. Oyamada stepped down from his role as a result, the Financial Times reported.

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