The Olympic Games finally opened in Tokyo last Friday, July 23, after a year’s delay due to the COVID – 19 pandemic. The Opening Ceremony signalled the start of the Games, and all eyes will be on Tokyo from hereon till August 8. However, protests and public opposition to the Games resonated loud and clear across Japan as the Games begun. And sportsfans were denied the opportunity to see the opening event personally due to COVID restrictions, with an elevation of cases reported lately.
There was a great concern over the Games with the rising COVID-19 numbers. In a survey, 31% of Japanese respondents said that the Games should be cancelled outright. The waning public support for the Games was mainly caused by the fear that it might trigger off a surge of infections in the country. And this fear was further heightened when 6 members of the just-arrived Czech Olympic Team tested positive for the virus.
But despite the strong opposition to the Games’ hosting, the Japanese authorities decided to push through with the event, citing not just the financial repercussions for cancelling the Games, but more importantly, the value of the Games to the world, and Japan’s significant leadership role in uplifting the world’s morale particularly during this COVID crisis.
In the end, the pro-Olympics group was able to shift the issue from: “should we push through with the Olympics or not?” to “what more precautions do we put in place in order to make the affair a safe and secure one?”
Indeed, the Olympics is a global event that is as powerful as it is prestigious. The Olympics – and sports in general – is not just about winning. The Olympic Games has elevated itself, and is now about education and development and culture and peace and the pursuit of happiness for the world in general. It is about bringing together the different peoples of the world, and learning from each other. It is about the golden opportunity to mingle and understand each other, in a friendly non-offensive sports setting.
Nelson Mandela once famously said: “Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else can. It speaks to the youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” Perhaps this is the reason why the Japanese have taken the higher plane in taking the bold step of pushing through with the Games despite the hazards.
The objective of modern-day Olympic Games is to “bring the athletes around the world in one place where they can play and spread peace and friendship with no discrimination in race and gender”. The statement itself does not talk about winning, but of using the playing field as a vehicle to attain peace and friendship. Whereas winning is portrayed as ‘the only thing’ among some quarters, the Olympics profess that there is more to the Games than simply winning. Winning, in this case, is second only to the love for the game, and the love for your fellowmen.
Sports develops leadership, character and nurtures the values of good sportsmanship, fair play and respect for fellow athletes. The Olympics takes that further, developing social cohesion, and building trust and teamwork within and among nations. Thus, its value cannot be monetized. It is simply priceless.
The Olympic Games have finally opened, despite the frustrations, the issues and concerns from some sectors. The trepidations remain, but the Japanese – known for their resilient and mature ways – are stepping up to the plate to take a bat for all of humanity. Japan, once viewed as a villain with its greedy ambitions in World War II, is now taking the cudgels for the world.
In a fitting message to the world, the Opening Ceremony featured the song “Imagine” by the late John Lennon, with its poignant plea for peace and unity:
“You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us,
And the world will be as ONE.”
My respect and total admiration goes to the people of Japan! Here’s a snappy salute to you all.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover pic courtesy of indiatimes.com. Other photos courtesy of: denofgeek.com, usatoday.com, mercurynews.com, sports.inquirer.net, aljazeera.com, cbssports.com, heavy.com, chronline.com, philstar.com, sports.yahoo.com, telegraph.co.uk, asiarugby.comand wlwt.com.