Tokyo 2020: The Best Olympic Games Ever?

Photo: IOC – The 2020 summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021)

08 August 2021 | James Porteous | Clipper Media

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021).

For the rest of time those words will be written and read with a hint of stinky karma. The failed Olympics? The Games held behind closed doors? Oh yes, that one.

It is so much easier to write something negative rather than positive. It is lazy journalism. It usually consists of writing something akin to what you might say in anger to family members or complete strangers.

It is also fashionable to be negative rather than positive.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are a perfect example. The headlines were written long before the Games even began. The negative narratives were easy and straightforward: These Games are going to be a disaster. The Games should never have gone ahead. These Games are nothing more than corporate greed.

But those narratives were wrong. These Games were, in fact, the first Games in our lifetime where the spotlight was on the actual athletes. Not the flag-waving supporters or the media dispatched to report on ‘their’ people, but the actual athletics vying to be the best in the world.

The athletes taking part in Tokyo 2020 -each and every one- had been following a training schedule for years, leading up to the original date for the 2020 Games. The plan, as always, was to peak ‘just in time’ and hopefully be among the very best in the world, by the time they set out for the Games in 2020.

But of course that did not happen. Instead, just as they were reaching their peak levels, after years of training, they were informed that the Games would be postponed. In fact they might actually be cancelled.

So what do you do? We common folk would no doubt hang our heads and cry into our soup and moan and groan about how unfair life is and then forget about the Games and move on to something else.

Photo: IOC – The 2020 summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021)

But not these people. They set their sights on resetting their training schedule for the following year, knowing full well that it might be completely futile. Indeed, they would continue to train an additional year knowing that if the Games were cancelled once more, time-wise and otherwise, they might never again have the opportunity to participate.

So they hunkered down, mostly alone, and did whatever they needed to do to prepare for the Games in the following year. That is what you do when you want to be the best in the world. You try to be the best in the world at what you do best in the world.

But saying and doing during a pandemic are two different things.

How do you plot out a year-long training routine, for example, if you are a swimmer and all of the swimming pools are closed due to a lockdown?

How to your rebuild you body to compete in brutal track events a year hence if you are locked inside your home? How do you train on a bike!

How to you practice your shot-put or your archery or you boxing or your marathon if you are locked inside your home?

You can’t, of course. But nor can you let go of the dream of being the best. So you wait. You wait to train, you wait to practice, you wait to see if the Game will even proceed, even weeks or months from then.

And then one fine day you find out that the dream is still alive. The Games will go ahead. And so you begin anew, running or swimming or whatever it is that you want to do best in the world. And it is so difficult to know when you need to reach your peak in the midst of the pandemic but you have no choice.

And you know that even if the Games go ahead, it will be exceedingly hard to even travel to Japan, let alone adhere to the pandemic protocols and the constant surveillance and the fear that everything could come crashing down at a moment’s notice if the pandemic reaches inside your bubble.

But it works out. Thousands of athletes and trainers and media arrive in Tokyo and they all proudly wear their credentials and their masks and they try not to become frustrated by the constant orders to move and not move and to sanitise and to only remove your masks for a total of one minute at a time.

But they carry on.

They carry on because, come their allotted time, they will follow the original mandate of The Games: To compete, to feel the rush and the joy and maybe even the heartbreak of trying to do your best. For their country. For their families. For themselves.

The 2020 summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021)
Photo: IOC – The 2020 summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021)

And they do this thing as best they can and they do not complain about the family they can only see on the video feed because they want to see them on the video feed, happy and excited or even sad and supportive.

And they know that millions of people around the world are ignoring the negative press headlines and the usual national propaganda and the flag waving and the ‘we are the world’ propaganda. Instead, millions of people around the world are tuning in to see athletes trying to be the best in the world at the best thing they can do.

And in the end it was not a ‘failure.’ Of course the country will be left with billions of dollars in debt, but that is a problem between the politicians and the IOC. They all knew this would be the case long before they signed on the dotted line. We will not read editorials in the media calling on the IOC or the advertisers or those contracted to build the venues to help pay down that debt.

But what we have left is one fact: These may actually have been the best Olympic Games since the first Olympic Games, because they were allowed to be athletes, competing against each other to be the best in the world and then, no matter the outcome, sharing the moment with other athletes who were likewise trying to be the best in the world doing the thing that they do best in the world.

And they did do the best they could. Personally I have never seen a better generational or national display of ‘the best’ in all the years I have been watching The Games. Some days two or three records fell in some sports. World Records. Personal Best Records. Olympic Records. It happened so often and with such joy and satisfaction that it was easy to forget to remember that these were the Failed Games.

But they were not failed in anyway and so the athletes, like some of us, said screw the anti-everything bullshit and the naysayers and anti-social misfits.

And we joined them in thanking the countless Olympic volunteers and the local and distant TV crews and the hotel staff and the bus drivers and the 7-Eleven staff and recycled medal makers who made this thing possible.

And they helped us forget, at least for a moment, the corporate greed of the IOC and the corporate advertisers and to take a moment to praise the other hundreds of athletes who, against all odds, also made the impossible journeys to Japan with no agenda other than to be the best they could be at the best they can possibly do.

And fear not. If you missed the flag-waving and the cheering fans and the nationalistic displays, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be coming up next and the Americans are dead-set on making it a ‘typical’ Games, a regular ‘you are either with us or against us’ Games and the athletes, most of whom have spent decades trying to be allowed to be the best in the doing the thing that they do best in the world, will once again take a back seat to the nationalism and the fake propaganda and the world leaders calling for boycotts and revenge and all the rest.

In short, expect a regular, typical Games next time around.

But at least we will have the memory of seeing the true joy and the sorrow of the athletes from around the world who gave up everything to appear on the stage of the The 2020 summer Olympic Games in Japan (23 Jul-8 Aug, 2021).

James Porteous / Clipper Media


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