It’s not ideal, is it, having to host an Olympic Games during an enduring worldwide pandemic. Tokyo 2020 delayed their games by a year and still it didn’t feel like it was really the right time to go ahead with it. But when would be the right time? That’s the difficult question. Many, many precautions were put in place and still athletes were having to self-isolate after catching or being pinged about a potential exposure to Covid.
And apart from the practicalities, there’re also many ethical and political questions that have surrounded the games, many of which I’ll never be smart enough to debate. Instead, I’ve focused on what the Olympics does best - lifting the spirits and providing more than its fair share of inspiration. I watched as much as I could.
The timezone difference was a bit tricky but more than that it was awkward to find good coverage. BBC have traditionally excelled at covering all the sports, but their broadcast rights were curtailed significantly this time, with Discovery (Eurosport) getting the better end of the deal. When I could find a programme with presenters and commentators, the Eurosport stuff was fine, but although they had comprehensive coverage of all the sports, you could never tell whether you were getting commentated events or just the plain feed. I prefer a bit of commentary with my sports, particularly those that I only see every four years! And the menus were very confusing.
So I stuck mainly with the BBC which meant I didn’t always get the best of my favourite sports, but I think it was a good compromise. And with two weeks of sporting action completed, here are five of my takeaways from the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
1) The Opening Ceremony.
I don’t think I’ve known such mixed reviews of an Opening Ceremony, particularly differing between those that were actually there and those of us watching on TV. I can understand that the atmosphere would have been very subdued and muted in the arena itself, but the ceremony was beautiful. The parade of athletes was a bit smaller than normal but I still got a good map workout, so I was happy. I didn’t watch the Closing Ceremony yet but most of the reviews I’ve seen have that have veered towards just simple relief that it’s all over with most catastrophes avoided.
2) Tom Daley’s gold medal.
Like most of the country, I’ve been watching this lad’s career since he was just a youngster. He’s been the face of the UK Olympics for so long and to finally get a gold medal after putting so much of himself out there on the world stage is wonderful. Plus he knitted cardigans and raised awareness along the way. What a guy!
3) The new sports.
Karate didn’t capture my attention particularly, although I did think that kata was a real discipline of the mind to stay focused out there on your own like that. Skateboarding seemed to get better as it went along, the park much better than the street. But what I really enjoyed was the climbing. It was thought this would be a popular addition to the schedule and I think that came to pass. I was looking forward to the Gladiator-style wall climbs, but actually they were over so quickly that it was the other disciplines that really became of interest. It’s good to have steady sports you know and love to revisit each Olympic cycle but adding something new in to the mix can work wonders too.
4) Simone Biles’s journey.
What a story this was. I think following so swiftly on from Naomi Osaka opening up about her own mental health battles, Biles’ similar but different struggles added a whole new layer to getting this a more talked about topic. And to come back and perform on the beam, looking so relieved to have got through the routine safely, well, what a moment to be proud of.
5)The three/four/five year story.
Genuinely one of my favourite things about this Games was the fact that everyone was just that little bit out of sorts. The number of times people said four years ago then corrected to five, or in four years’ time and then corrected to three. The extra year off helped some people, but hindered others. It just added an extra dimension to things. No one would have wanted it this way, but I don’t think it took away from anything to have had that extra year out.
And now we go back to the day-to-day of getting through a pandemic, looking forward to the Paralympics that start at the end of this month, and then ahead to Paris 2024 – where we hope the global outlook will be a lot different and a lot better.