YYou don’t have a lot of downtime like a work gimmick at the Olympics, but my schedule at the Rio Games meant the laptop lid would sometimes close around 7pm. The ablutions at the team’s hotel were followed by a couple of beers in the company of any teammates who might have also found themselves on a loose end. With the thirst quenched, it was time to eat: a coronary of assorted succulent meats washed down at one of the countless beachfront steakhouses.
Exhausted, full, pleasantly drunk, and with the sanctuary of bed a short walk from Copacabana, deciding what to do next was invariably a no-brainer. Beach volleyball was on. Fundamentally, it was close. And the laminated rectangles that hung around our necks meant we could get in. To repeat: a no-brainer.
I don’t think I wrote a single word about the sport during my stay in Rio and due in large part to the cheapness of the local liquor, my memories of the last hours of the night stretch into the early hours of the morning in the bear pit. built especially for this purpose. Rio’s most famous stretch of sand is incomplete at best. What I do remember for sure is that they were one of the biggest sporting events I have ever attended.
Having never been a stronghold of beach volleyball, my native Ireland was underrepresented, which meant I had no skin, as mushy as it might have been, in the game. But the sheer din of nights when 12,000 friendly and like-minded people from all corners of the world screamed with the backing of a knowledgeable stadium DJ on steep bleachers built under the stars above Rio made them utterly intoxicating. The drinking helped too, and the lateness of the hour, and the fact that few of those present had passed a breathalyzer test certainly added to the ever-affable, multicultural playfulness and alcoholic affability. Music and passion, with folk in the whip … in the Cup!
That was then and this is now, a time when there seems to be a general lack of enthusiasm for a previously postponed Tokyo Olympics that has gripped us but suddenly looms large. While the pandemic has already seen to it that shrillness, personable multicultural gaiety, and drunken bonhomie are kept to a minimum, these Games also promise to be drenched in resentment and resentment. The famous polite and welcoming citizens of a city that once prided itself on being chosen as hosts no longer want them. As dominant guests of the house who have stayed longer than your welcome, the International Olympic Committee steadfastly refuses to read the room and leave.
“These Games will take place barring only armageddon,” the tin-eared IOC declared this week, having apparently decided that a country trying to contain the second wave of a pandemic does not meet the apocalyptic emergency standards necessary to leave the world. boat.
They have pointed their detractors in the direction of the impending soccer Eurocup and America’s Cup, comparing apples to oranges in doing so. Vaccine launches in Europe are light years ahead of those in Japan, while the covid-ravaged Brazil decision to step in as a late replacement host for the South American tournament is obviously insane.
There is another crucial difference. As questionable as the desirability of hosting Euro 2020 in a variety of countries during a pandemic may be, there seems to be widespread and near-unanimous enthusiasm for the tournament across a continent that seems confident that it can host it without endangering life. . The people of Tokyo, on the other hand, are terrified of the biological carnage that the arrival of 90,000 athletes, officials, journalists and other workers from around the world could visit them like so many marauding mini-Godzillas. A poll by the Nikkei newspaper revealed that 62% of the public would prefer that everyone stay away. Another newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, has garnered 83% public opposition to the Games.
Japan has coped well with the virus: With a population of 126.3 million, 13,107 lives have been lost. However, the rigidity of its vaccination policy means that only 4.1% of Tokyo citizens have been vaccinated. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that a sudden invasion of conspicuous foreigners, who will have to be driven, fed and drunk by an army of unvaccinated service industry workers, could make for a decidedly tense three weeks.
The IOC Olympic spirit speaks of “mutual understanding in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play” – noble, yet joyous sentiments that sound extremely hollow when the people proclaiming them have the host city on a barrel and it looks like hell. hell-bent on generating local hostility, paranoia, and fear. Tokyo is powerless to stop them as they are contractually bound to the IOC and any decision to breach that agreement would leave them liable for catastrophic financial losses.
And the beach volleyball players? In the extremely unlikely event that the IOC did the right thing, it would be devastated athletes from all disciplines who would deserve our sympathy, and most of them have now diligently prepared for this pinnacle of their particular career twice.
But this is not about them. Although Pierre de Coubertin was right when he said “the important thing is not to win but to participate”, this time not participating would undoubtedly be the most important of all.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism