This past Saturday the 2018 Asian Games formally opened in Jakarta, one-half of the host cities along with Palembang in Indonesia. While the athletic delegations from the 45 participating nations only made their triumphal entrance parade into Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium on the evening of August 18, sporting events have already commenced as early as August 10, two Fridays ago. It is in these early pre-opening ceremony competitions that the first major controversies of the event took place. The Japanese delegation has decided to send four of their players for men’s basketball home, after they were involved in an embarrassing incident while out in the town at night.
USA Today reports that four players of the Japanese men’s basketball team were sent back to their country this Monday, August 20. According to the chef de mission of the Japan athletic delegation, Yasuhiro Yamashita, the men were located in the company of some local women at a hotel in Jakarta’s entertainment district, following an evening of eating and drinking. Even worse, the Japanese players were still wearing their athletic shirts with the Team Japan logo, making for a massive social faux pas between the players and the host country.
This episode happened in the wake of Japan’s victory over Qatar in the Asiad men’s basketball preliminaries on Thursday, August 16. It was only in the following days that Japanese Olympic officials were made aware of the players’ actions after they were spotted in photographs on an Indonesian newspaper. Concerned over a possible damage to the delegation’s reputation, the JOC demanded that the four involved – Takuya Hashimoto, Keita Imamura, Yuya Nagayoshi, and Takuma Sato – be sent back to Japan.
In his capacity as delegation head, Yasuhiro Yamashita talked to the erring players prior to their return home. “They deeply regret what they did,” Yamashita said in a statement. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart as the head of the delegation.” It could not be helped; what Hashimoto, Imamura, Nagayoshi and Sato did was, according to the JOC, a “clear breach of the team’s conduct code, which specifies athletes are to be role models.” As an additional penalty, the four players will have to pay for their return tickets to Japan out of their own pockets. In the meantime, their teammates will have to soldier on with the contest, with only three substitutes, against Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The 18th Asian Games features 450 events divided into 40 different sports. It also includes two demonstration events: canoe polo and eSports, the latter to be contested in six online games. There is talk for making eSports a medal event in 2022, but the International Olympic Committee wants it to have an international federation first.
Image courtesy of Japan Today