Five Islands: Games of Green

by Flora Weil

When Flora moved to Japan in 2019, she became interested in the advertising of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which heavily promoted environmental friendliness. The official Olympic Games website outlined five key sustainability themes: Climate Change, Resource Management, Natural Environment and Biodiversity, Human Rights, and Labour and Fair Business Practices. Examining these themes and the development of the Games more closely, she quickly found counter-evidence for each claim to sustainability.

The project gradually evolved from an examination of factual elements to an investigation of cultural determinants specific to Japan. Flora was interested in understanding Japanese society’s unique definition of environmentalism and how its relationship to concepts such as nature, fantasy, and ideals gave way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and its consequent greenwashing.

As the postponed games eventually took place, the Japanese population was experiencing the effects of the global pandemic while being imposed upon by a corporate sporting event that a majority did not agree to, but had to pay for. The outcome of Flora’s research within this context is a series of stories that imagine what Tokyo 2020 might have been if the five Olympic sustainability themes had been implemented. Her proposal uses fiction as a shared language for articulating an alternative narrative of Tokyo 2020, which functions both as a chronicle of the present and as a speculation on the future.

Creative Proposition: Five Islands: Games of Green

Narrative Vignettes / Animation Videos

How do we make sense of the most expensive and divisive global sporting event to date in a moment where our planet is in crisis? Beyond its anachronic naming, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has defied logic on a myriad of issues, including corruption, cost, public opinion, and safety amid a pandemic. One aspect where it has consistently maintained contradictions - from its bid in 2013 to its realisation in 2021 - has been its eco-friendly image, marketed through five key themes allegedly promoting sustainability.

Five Islands is a series of vignettes that revisit these five themes, using fiction and design research to propose an alternative approach to sustainable games. Each vignette consists of a narrative text and an accompanying video representing the spaces, scales, or systems described in these stories.

‘Far East Fantasy’:

The first story investigates how energy is produced and distributed throughoutTokyo, focusing specifically on the excessive power consumption of the advertising industry. In response, it reimagines billboards and commercials through the lens of ancient Japanese forms of storytelling. 

‘The Last Man of the Earth’:

The second vignette retraces the illegally sourced materials used to build the 2020 Olympic venues. It presents a substitute narrative where the stadium is reclaimed as a space for bioremediation and regrowth.

‘Herbarium Ghosts’:

The third vignette voices the perspectives of disaster victims and marginal citizens directly affected by the nationwide promises of ‘recovery games’. The alternative it depicts revisits the concept of sponsorships as a form of social cohesion where local needs and community relations are prioritised.

‘The Floating World’:

The fourth story concerns resource management, a pillar inaccurately named ‘Zero Waste’ by Olympic organisers. The vignette imagines a version of Tokyo closer to Edo, with an infrastructure inspired by its traditional onsen towns. 

‘Mediocre Medalist’:

The final vignette explores Japanese societal values around conformity. It proposes medals as rewards for mundane human achievements rather than prizes for extraordinary, curated performances.

Through this collection of five stories, Five Islands imagines a world where the original Olympic intent - envisioned as an instrument of peace - is realised not through commercial deals and television rights, but by making future life on this planet possible.