When the 32nd Olympiad opened over the weekend in Tokyo the question on many Asian minds would have been whether the United States would continue to bag the largest number of medals or whether China would make a comeback. Right through the 1970s and the 1980s the Soviet Union dominated the Summer Olympics, with its sportspersons bagging the largest number of medals. It took the implosion of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War for the United States to emerge as the biggest collector of medals at the games. The US has since remained at the top except in 2008, when China hosted the games and bagged the largest number of medals. As the games return to Asia it remains to be seen if Xi Jinping’s China can repeat the 2008 performance.

The Olympics have not just been about sport and athletics. Hosting them and securing medals has also been about national pride and geopolitics. Japan placed its bid for the 2020 Olympics (now…

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