Commentary: Seattle can speak up for Hiroshima and Nagasaki Olympic bid
Hiroshima and Nagasaki have come up with an innovative idea for holding the 2020 Olympics in the two atomic-bombed cities. The date is tied to the goal of the international Mayors for Peace, of which Seattle’s Greg Nickels is a member, to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020.
I heard the idea raised at the Mayors for Peace conference held in Nagasaki in August, as a way to celebrate whatever success has been achieved in nuclear abolition by then and encourage further progress. It’s a great idea. The cause is a good one, the cities have made amazing recoveries and the whole world would be happy to celebrate greater security on the nuclear issue. But the rule-bound, backward International Olympic Committee is already making high-and-mighty noises about how it has no provisions for a dual-city hosting of the summer games. And, gosh, how could the leaders make changes by 2011 or so, in time for the start of the bidding on the 2020 games? What clowns.
If any country should urge flexibility and a change in the rules on the IOC, it’s the United States. However one views the bombings, there’s no excuse for the most powerful country in the world not to take a compassionate interest in the two A-bombed cities. And their goal of nuclear abolition is broadly shared from former Republican Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz ( http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120036422673589947.html ) to President Barack Obama. Oh, yeah, and it was Ronald Reagan who really got the first real nuclear disarmament agreement with the old Soviet Union.
Although it has been around for decades, Mayors for Peace has grown strongly in recent years to more than 3,100 members, a sign of both the worldwide concern about nuclear weapons and cities’ growing awareness of their ability to unite to have an effect on larger issues. Nickels is a perfect example of that power, having helped fill the vacuum of U.S. leadership on climate change with his farsighted policies. He once told me – and it made pretty good sense, though I might have wished for a different answer – that he had never become particularly active in Mayors for Peace because he hadn’t found a strong local “nexus.”
U.S. cities aren’t well represented in the group, with only 148 members (including Tacoma but, as far as I can see, no other city in this state despite the plentiful military and nuclear connections that ought to suggest all sorts of ties to the cause of peace and nuclear sanity). Europe, by contrast, has more than 1,775 members. Whether Mike McGinn or Joe Mallahan is elected to succeed Nickels, Seattle’s next leaders should at least join the Mayors for Peace and even take a more active role on behalf of a port city that might well become a target for any terrorists who might get their hands on nuclear materials.
Joe Copeland is a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial writer. He visited Japan this summer on a Fulbright grant to do research on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the legacy of the 1945 bombings. He has a blog related to the research, www.hiroshimastories.com.