The Coronavirus pandemic has already caused the delay of the summer Olympics by twelve months, but the postponement has not guaranteed a safe and restriction-free delivery. The Olympics this year has seen many adaptations due to Covid, but the question is whether it boasts these adaptations or suffers them. Is it a beacon of hope or a sad condemnation of the world we live in?
The impacts of Covid have certainly been noticeable. Tokyo’s national stadium, a 60,000 seated goliath, has remained largely empty. Yet the Opening Ceremony rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, performed by a large collection of international artists, was undeniably and aptly uplifting. A fence was erected around the stadium to keep the public out, with protestors gathering to demand the games’ cancellation. Yet the ‘drone globe’ display – 1,824 drones flying above the stadium in the shape of the Earth – sent a message of unity across the world. It has certainly been an Olympics of contrasts.
And for the first time ever, there were more athletes than attendees – just over 4000 attendees yet 11,000 athletes. Is this the reclaiming of the sport for its competitors rather than its viewers? It certainly seems like there has been far less media coverage this year than previously. Perhaps this signals a change in the role of sport in our society; perhaps sport is becoming less about celebrity culture and more about expertise. Unfortunately, this might also decrease the number of children viewing sports stars as idols; a decrease of children viewing perseverance and hard work as rewarding qualities.
But the impact of Covid on the Olympics’ athletes has also been notable. Six members of Team GB have already been told to quarantine for fourteen days, with just 23 of Britain’s 376-person delegation attending the Opening Ceremony. The teams’ testing regime is harsh and their restrictions severe, threatening their careers and their medals alike.
There’s also the local population to consider. Japanese opinion polls show that 68% of people doubted coronavirus infections could be kept under control during the Olympics, while 55% supported a last minute cancellation just two weeks before the Opening Ceremony. Even Toyota, one of the Games’ most important sponsors, cancelled their Olympic-themed Japanese adverts just days before the Games began. Japan’s chief health adviser, Shigeru Omi, warned the public that daily infections in Tokyo could reach almost 3,000 by the time the Olympics close.
Whether you view the Games as a success or a failure, it is clear that they have given athletes the chance to return to their careers, as so many others have done recently. The only conclusive demonstration of the Olympics is that the world we live in today is neither simple nor neat. It is messy and complicated, a web of contradictions and risks and rewards.
And that, no matter what else you believe, is what the Olympics reflects about the times we live in.
On 9 August 2021, 12:09 Olivia Wyatt Kickstart commented:
This is such an interesting read! I personally was very excited for the athletes to get back to doing what they love but as you have mentioned at what cost to Japan and its citizens. I really found the statistics of the local population opinion interesting - the fact that 55% supported a last minute cancellation is very concerning. Maybe the local's should have had more of a say in the games going ahead this year.