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Trash Islands: The Olympic Games and Japan’s Changing Environment
- Robin Kietlinski (Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York)
The Olympic Games have become synonymous with massive infrastructure projects that dramatically alter the landscape of the host city. From artificial islands, new highways, airports and rail lines, to enormous multi-purpose stadiums and specialized single-sport arenas, the economic investments that accompany the hosting of these events are well-documented and debated.
Far less attention has been given to the long-lasting environmental impacts that Olympic-scale development projects have on host cities and countries. The question of whether the hosting of an Olympic Games justifies such significant and long-lasting environmental costs has been surprisingly understudied. As preparations for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games continue in and around Tokyo Bay, largely on islands constructed from reclaimed waste material, the question of the long-term impacts on the environment for the region’s 30 million residents is of vital importance. While prospective host cities typically set forth extensive proposals to hold “Green Games” that will have minimal impact on the natural environment, few, if any, are able to deliver on these promises.
Positioning itself as one of the world’s leaders in environmental technology and efficiency, Japan is seeking to use the global spotlight of the 2020 Olympics to display and market new models of sustainable development. This presentation will take a close and critical look at these endeavors through a historical lens, and consider the full scope of the costs of hosting the Olympics.
Associate Professor, LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York
Robin Kietlinski is Associate Professor of History at LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York. There she teaches East Asian and global history courses. Her research focuses on historical intersections between Japanese society and sport, with a particular focus on the Olympic Games. Her 2012 book, Japanese Women and Sport: Beyond Baseball and Sumo (Bloomsbury Academic Press), looks at the history of Japanese women’s participation in sport from the Meiji period to the present. Dr. Kietlinski is a 2019-2020 Fulbright Scholar at the University of Tsukuba, conducting research on the environmental impacts of Olympic infrastructure projects in Japan from a historical perspective. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago, and an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in East Asian Languages and Civilizations.