Photo: Nikki Haley (front, centre right), U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of April, chairs the Council's meeting on the maintenance of international peace and security: human rights and prevention of armed conflict. Secretary-General António Guterres sits to her right. (18 April 2017). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Photo: 2021

Nuclear Games for the Young Coincides with Tokyo Olympics

By Thalif Deen*

NEW YORK (IDN) — The widely-televised Tokyo Olympics, which was inaugurated in the Japanese capital on July 23, wasn’t the only game in town.

Coinciding with the opening ceremony, a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), anti-nuclear activists and youth leaders launched “Nuclear Games,” an innovative film and online platform addressing nuclear history and the risks and impacts of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.

Perhaps it was also a reflection of the longstanding cat-and-mouse game played by the world’s nine nuclear powers—the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—violating the  Olympic ideals of peace and humanity with a resurgent nuclear arms race.

The coalition says Nuclear Games shines a light on nuclear issues which are deliberately downplayed by governments, including by Japan as it presents the Olympics with a virtually empty stadium because of coronavirus restrictions.

Japan experienced nuclear bombings in 1945 and also suffered one of the world’s most devastating nuclear power accidents in 2011 and remains deeply affected by them.

“Nuclear Games” also tells the stories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Chernobyl disaster, the victims of uranium mining and nuclear testing and the North Korean nuclear program, using a unique combination of manga, historical footage, and interactive online content designed largely to engage younger audiences.

After following the Nuclear Games initiative, Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification & Security Policy at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told IDN: “I was struck by a comment at the launch by one of the young women presenters.”

And he pointed out “that at many forums on nuclear weapons matters, most of the people involved were 30 years older than the younger folks.”

“I think the manga format is well done and more impactful than talking-heads or academic-type writings. The visual medium in this day and age has taken over the printed word to a great extent”, he noted.

As nuclear dangers increase and persist, said Rauf, it is important to tell the personal stories of those affected by the Cold War nuclear arms race and near misses of nuclear conflict.

However, conflating nuclear weapons with nuclear energy might not be a wise way to go, he cautioned, given climate change and burning forests.

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and Member of the World Future Council, told IDN the launch event was “superb”.

“It was youth run and included youth leaders (peace, human rights, climate, disarmament) from Africa, Central Asia, NE Asia, North America and Europe. It uses a pop-art, animation style that is very dramatic.”

Moreover, he pointed out, it’s fresh, very people-centered, and seems to be capturing the interest of youth.

“Vanda Proskova is a star. She was the young person chosen to speak at the UN High Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament last October. She is well worth interviewing.”

So too is Kehkashan Basu, the keynote speaker for the launch event, and also a youth speaker at one of the UN High Level Meetings on Nuclear Disarmament (about three years ago), said Ware.

The link to her speech at the launch event follows:

In a press release, the coalition of NGOs said that nuclear dangers and tensions are rising today. According to the Pentagon, the risk of nuclear war is growing. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock in 2021 remained at 100 seconds to midnight. It was last advanced in 2020.

“But many young people aren’t even aware of the Cuban missile crisis, let alone the fact that nuclear dangers are worse now than in 1962,” said Vanda Proskova, a Youth Fusion convener and a graduate student in international law who is active on nuclear issues.

“That’s why nuclear education efforts like this are so important. When they learn the facts and the history, many young people want to do something about it,” she noted.

“‘Nuclear Games’ is a wonderful tool for engaging more of them in the nuclear disarmament movement,” said Proskova, who serves as Vice Chair of PragueVision Institute for Sustainable Security and is Co-Director of the Gender, Peace and Security program at Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.

“Nuclear Games” was developed by interactive video books pioneer Docmine, a Swiss-based creative studio, with support from Basel Peace Office, Youth Fusion Physicians for Social Responsibility Switzerland and the World Future Council.

It is offered in English and German and aimed at non-usual suspects: people who don’t typically watch political documentaries or engage in anti-nuclear advocacy work, says the coalition.

“It will have particular resonance with younger viewers, many of whom are unfamiliar with the history it conveys of nuclear disasters, near misses, and ongoing threats and impacts”.

A trailer for the feature film is posted here.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau, told IDN:In addition to appreciating the film’s pointing to the ongoing existential nuclear dangers on the eve of the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombings, I am glad that the Game’s press release points to the hypocrisy of the Olympics being held midst the pandemic”.

He said the Japanese government has cynically spent trillions of yen to prepare for the Olympics and then insisted on holding them against the opposition of most people in Japan.

“With only a quarter of the Japanese population vaccinated against Covid-19, we should reflect on how many more Japanese people would be alive today and next year were those yen, and others spent on building one of the world’s most advanced militaries, instead been devoted to developing and purchasing vaccines. I hope that Japanese voters will bear this in mind when it is election time this fall,” Gerson declared.

In the runup to July 23 opening ceremony, the Olympic torch relay was deliberately routed through Fukushima Prefecture, including the towns where the plant is located, and others nearby that were long abandoned in the wake of the disaster. Olympic baseball and softball competitions are also being held in a stadium in Fukushima Prefecture.

“This is government spin, deliberately minimizing and normalizing the disaster, and ignoring Fukushima’s ongoing impacts and threats to public safety,” said Dr Andreas Nidecker, MD, Basel Peace Office president and the originator of the “Nuclear Games” concept.

“Billions will watch the Olympics and get the carefully crafted message that everything in Fukushima is fine, and that nuclear meltdowns are quickly lived down. But that’s dangerous denialism. We need a global education effort to promote basic literacy about nuclear dangers in order to make future nuclear disasters less likely,” he declared. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 July 2021]

* Thalif Deen is a former Director, Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and military editor Middle East/Africa at Jane’s Information Group. He is also the author of a newly released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That” available on Amazon.

Image credit: Nuclear Games

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