Sunday, October 17

Despite everything, Games with soul

In March 2020, the organization of the JTokyo Olympics decided to postpone them before covid threat. Only the First and Second World Wars had so far been able to interrupt the four-year Olympic cadence. The worst of the pandemic had not yet arrived, but experience since then has shown that it was the right decision to avoid the gathering of thousands of athletes from around the world in the Olympic venue. A year later, the appointment has been possible without, according to the first data of the organization, there have been more than some small outbreaks within the Olympic community, without any contagion to the local population. Even though the world (without Japan having escaped this time) is on the crest of the fifth wave, the Games seem like they have not been the supercontagator event what they could have become without the deployment of vaccines, the meticulousness of the Japanese organizers and the awareness that we must adapt all of our most entrenched routines to the threat of the virus. In this case, the presence of the public in the stands.

Despite that overwhelming emptiness, For hundreds of millions of spectators around the world, hardly anything has differentiated the experience of following the Olympic Games behind closed doors from that which they would have enjoyed under normal conditions. On the tracks, swimming pools, roads or regatta fields, the protagonism of the athletes has been enough to make us forget, in the essentially television experience which are the Games for the world audience, the absence of the public, the impossibility of contemplating their emotions live or their gestures of support. But beyond the sporting spectacle, as those who experienced first-hand in Barcelona-92, the impact of some Games on the localities that host them is enormous. The presence of thousands of athletes and fans from all over the world represents a unique experience during 15 magic days, and an impact that can mark the physiognomy, the global image and the future of a city. We should not settle for giving it up as the Games (and sport in general) end up becoming an experience to be lived only through a screen.

For the IOC President, these non-face-to-face Olympics ran the risk of losing their soul. But the delivery of the athletes, has concluded, has prevented it. It has not been achieved only by athletic feats, such as that of sprinters, jumpers or swimmers who have broken records, or the examples of camaraderie, such as those of the jumpers who gave up fighting to be first, or the shared happiness of two Italian athletes, or the excitement of the closest competitions.

The soul of the Games also includes the episodes that, many times despite the reluctance of international sports institutions, have become speaker or reflection of social and political debates. Such as the growing prominence of women’s sport, the normalization of diversity – and the reply to those who resist celebrating it, as the Galician athlete Ana Peleteiro has done – or the priority of caring for Mental health facing the demands of the hyper-competitiveness. In the resignation to compete of Simone Biles perhaps there was much more soul than in some records.

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