Following the dictum of Swedish authors Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell A. Nordström – that we watch television to figure ourselves out – our Creative Director & CSO recently found himself on a front room floor next to a vintage Toshiba set approaching midnight. Cereal bowl in hand, he had been viewing a 24-hour news network long enough for the same items to be entering their third cycle, but he was transfixed by news of the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, a competition that – like so much coming out of Asia over the past few decades – resembles the future for the entire planet.
The 2014 Asian Games – the seventeenth edition of the competition since its inception after the Second World War – tells us much about where Asia is heading. The television and Internet presentation is iconic and aesthetically pleasing. The facilities and infrastructure are first-class. Even second-tier cities in countries such as South Korea now boast glittering metro systems.
But when it comes to actual athletic and organisational standards, many Asian countries are still punching vastly below their weight. Look away from the top of the medal table – which is predictably occupied by the A3 states of China, Japan and Korea Republic – and the medal count of nations such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan starts to look distinctly worrying. In a ‘flat’ and arguably increasingly heterarchical world, it is increasingly difficult for naturally wealthy countries with populations in the hundreds of millions to justify the unnecessarily inefficacious state of their societies.
The twenty-first century may already be the Asian Century. However, if the continent as a whole is serious about competing with Europe on a sporting level, much remains to be done. The immediate challenge is for 2018 Asian Games hosts Indonesia to put on a decent performance when the show rolls in to Jakarta in four years’ time; while medal tallies can be misleading, drastic underachievement remains a warning signal to the world that all is not right.