Uh-oh, a slip of the tongue is never a good thing but it’s even worse when it’s in an international public announcement. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach made his already not so fond reputation in Japan worse by referring to Japanese people as “Chinese” Tuesday during his first public appearance in Tokyo. While Bach quickly attempted to correct himself and was lucky the interpreters were kind enough not to translate his fumble in Japanese, his mistake was caught by Japanese news outlets and other media. Critics said the comment was indicative of the lack of respect Bach and the Olympic Committee had for Japanese locals being put at risk by the games, NBC News reported.
“You have managed to make Tokyo the best-ever prepared city for the Olympic Games. This is even more remarkable under the difficult circumstances we all have to face,” Bach said at the headquarters of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee. “Our common target is safe and secure games for everybody; for the athletes, for all the delegations, and most importantly also for the Chinese people—Japanese people.”
According to The Washington Post, Bach isn’t too popular in Japan because many Japanese blame him for “forcing” Japan to go ahead with the Olympics despite the risks it may pose to have it during the pandemic. According to a poll of the Japanese public conducted in May, up to 83% of the population wants the Olympics to either be postponed or canceled entirely. While his speech was meant to ease locals of the concerns they had regarding the Olympics being a superspreader event, it instead made them feel Bach and his team had no regard for their safety.
The mishap in language follows previous comments Bach has made which have caused public backlash in the country, including saying the Olympics will require a “great sacrifice” and praising the “great resilience and spirit” of the Japanese people and their ability “to overcome adversity.” Both comments were seen as insensitive to the Japanese people by many.
While he is limited in his travel in the country due to quarantine and other COVID-19 safety precautions in place, he is scheduled to travel to the city of Hiroshima on Friday. According to the Post, an online petition launched last week calling for the cancelation of his visit to the city received more than 30,000 signatures by Tuesday. Clearly, the people of Japan are not a fan of Bach so this mistake will probably only further the grievances they have with him.
But Bach isn’t the only white person to not know the difference between the two Asian countries. On the same day, Fox News guest Morgan Ortagus also confused Japan with China. Pretending to care for the ongoing genocide against the Uyghur Muslims, Ortagus described the Olympics as the “Genocide Olympics.”
Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps since 2017. According to Daily Kos, those detained undergo anywhere from months to years of indoctrination and interrogation under the guise of anti-terrorism or extremism prevention education aimed to transform them into loyal supporters of the party. With mass hysterectomies being conducted and other horrific conditions in these concentration camps, human rights groups are calling the injustice against the Uyghur population a genocide.
But unlike Bach, Ortagus’ comments were not a slip of the tongue because she not only failed to correct herself but continued on to speak about the Olympics. “I like to call them the ‘Genocide Olympics,’ anyway. I’m still on the team that I’m not even sure that we should be competing because there is an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang. So, if we are going to go to a country, if we are going to compete, have American athletes there, in a country that’s committing a genocide—even more important, Harris, to have the freedom of the American flag fully represented,” Ortagus said.
To clarify, Japan has no involvement with the Uyghur crisis and in April even raised “serious concerns” over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. To make matters worse, the comments were made in front of four others including Harris Faulkner, Emily Compagno, Kayleigh McEnany, and David Avella— none of them corrected Ortagus.
Ortagus isn’t just another one of Fox’s unhinged guest appearances; She is a financial analyst and political adviser who served as a State Department spokesperson from 2019 to 2021.
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