March 18th, 2011
02:36 PM ET

Can sport help Japan recover from disaster?

Sport has already played a part in Japan's recovery, with people taking shelter in local gymnasiums.
Sport has already played a part in Japan's recovery, with people taking shelter in local gymnasiums.

The world of sport has done as much as it can to show its support for the victims of the Japanese earthquake.

Of course, there is only so much the sympathetic words of athletes like American tennis star Andy Roddick can do. Respectful gestures, like the wearing of black armbands or the staging of a minute’s silence, are symbolic for the victims but offer no solution.

But then athletes, like the rest of us, are in an impossible situation when responding to national tragedies.

"It's very difficult to put yourself in the place of a person who has lost everything and is looking for their loved ones amid all that debris," alpine skier Didier Cuche said recently.
That said, while it's tough for athletes to empathize they can obviously sympathize, and sport is a past master in matching kind words with good deeds.

And make no mistake; sport does have a role to play in assisting with Japan’s recovery. Clearly, there’s the fund-raising aspect. We’ve already heard of a number of sporting initiatives that will generate cash and maintain awareness of Japan’s plight.

But there’s also the less tangible way in which sport can help, because in most countries sport is about much more than wins and losses, it is part of the culture.

Indeed, last week, its healing power was noted by the general secretary of the Japanese Football Association, Kozo Tashima, in relation to some upcoming friendlies that he had hoped would go ahead.

“We need to send a message to the rest of the world,” Tashima said. “We need to inform them that Tokyo is functional, that the city is okay and order is being restored.

“The entire Japanese football community needs to help the country get back on its feet again. Not just soccer, but I think the whole sports world in Japan needs to step up for the nation.”

And step up it will, because that is what sport does. It is of the people, for the people. And while, out of necessity, it gets marginalized on the occasions when a major catastrophe strikes, its impact is only dormant.

Japan will rise again and sport will be an agents of that renaissance. It is a moral-booster, not peripheral to the culture but an integral part of it, and one of the true barometers of a society in good health.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. troy0619

    True, the music world should also get involved. I haven't heard of any large mega shows raising money for the people of Japan.

    March 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Reply
  2. Jon in Japan

    While I agree sports should help the people who live in Japan, remember its not just Japanese in Japan, allot of the people who write stories say, the Japanese, sorry but others live here too.

    Anyways, you need to remember that the most of Tokyo and surrounding areas are under rolling black outs. Also the trains are not fully running, and many people dont have gas to get to events, trains and many people dont even have food, and for sports to say they will force athletes to play, is not the best idea at this time. Allot of athletes said they dont want to play, but will if forced.

    I agree sports will help folks outside of Japan see, ok Japan is open for business, but honestly, we dont want people coming, we are running out of food, gas, electrical issues, except for central Tokyo cause they are special, so no those who live here, dont want sports to go on.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:50 am | Reply
  3. alehandro

    Japan is a rich country so the financial impact of the earthquake will not be as devastating as it was in Haiti. But sport can provide something more important than money because it will connect on a primal level. Watching a sporting event won't erase the terrible memories but the emotional investment will at least provide some escapism which in itself can have a rejuvenating effect. It could also mark a return to normality, which I'm sure everyone living in Japan wants to see as soon as possible Good luck and God bless.

    March 19, 2011 at 3:12 am | Reply
  4. devided

    Im sure Tepco and its Bankers that fund this technology could fund sport as some sort of social responsibility

    March 19, 2011 at 3:32 am | Reply
  5. Sachiko

    Hi Terry. In Japan now there is an atmosphere that taboos to enjoy something or entertainment. Rush of sport and culture events are cancelled/postponed, about 90% people oppose domestic baseball league to start later this month as scheduled. Mood of refraining from events is partly in order to save energy and cautious with radiation, but mostly because people think kind of encouragement or inspiring is needed only when rejuvenation starts with a glimpse of hope, saying now is too early for that. Still in the dark after a week from disaster, with large amount of people remain missing, power shortage, nuclear problem & fear of radiation, impotent authorities, could see little light for future. Japan is suffering with depression. it's a serious problem.

    Japanese people are all appreciate tons of encouraging kind words and action by athletes, celebrity and all people from overseas which has saved us a lot. still struggling to find a way, I'm convinced Japan will come back strong as previous generations did after WWII. I'm proud as a Japanese that my country has played a big role on some worldwide sport events, believe it will remain the same in the future. This year end Japan is to host FIFA CWC, and 8 years later, will host rugby world cup, plus has many world class events to host. I hope many overseas people left Japan will come back, Japanese various sport fields will get back on their feet, and restore international exchange as before.

    March 19, 2011 at 7:14 am | Reply
  6. J-M

    If anybody can put the pieces back together it's the Japanese. That Nation has thousands of years of History. It will live to see several more ... guaranteed.

    God Speed your Plough!

    March 20, 2011 at 2:29 am | Reply
  7. bellagm

    I look over via google translate – keep up with the updates !


    May 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Reply

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