KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Every Olympic Games is historic, for one reason or another. Many of those are negative. Berlin 1936 (Nazis), Munich 1972 (terrorists), Montreal (costings), Moscow 1980 (boycott #1) and Los Angeles 1984 (boycott #2). Tokyo 2020 in 2021 will always be the ‘Pandemic Games.’
By a weird symmetry, Tokyo was awarded hosting rights during the same session (congress) which saw Thomas Bach elected as first German president of the International Olympic Committee.
This writer was there to see Tokyo lead after the first round ballot with 42 votes but fall short of a majority as Istanbul and Madrid tied for second on 26 votes each. A 49-45 tiebreaker vote put the Turkish city in the final runoff. Tokyo, having crucially persuaded the IOC that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was history, then won the shootout 60-36.
Thus Bach’s personal power destiny – or fate – has been and always will be linked with however events may turn now the formal Opening Ceremony has been enacted today in Japan.
These included a row over the new Olympic Stadium which delayed construction; the standard allegations about votes and dirty money; and the usual spat over expenditure shares between IOC and national and local organisers (of $5bn or $19m?).
Also the sports bear their regular issues. Not FIFA this time but murky business in the boxing and weightlifting federations; the dark cloud emanating from the Russian doping saga still floats over many events; plus the IOC’s enforced and reluctant retreats over athletes’ sponsor visibility and human rights protests.
Nothing new, then, under the Olympic sun which has been rising and setting on Charles Pierre de Fredy, the Baron de Coubertin’s revivalist extravaganza ever since the Athens Games of 1896.
Until, in the spring of last year, along came coronavirus.
The rapidity of its worldwide spread threatened a reprise of events more than 80 years ago when the first award of a summer Olympics to Tokyo, for 1940, was removed because of the threatened onset of war.
This time it was a close-run matter but eventually, as late as possible in March 2020, the Games were postponed for the first time in their history.
Now, 12 months later and despite protest-provoking concerns over death and infection rates, they will finally launch into action on pitches, in pools and across and within the multi-million-dollar venues and arenas.
Snide aspersions have been cast on the health security doubters by some within the Olympic family who have their own axes to grind. They should pipe down and sensitively acknowledge those many millions with first-hand experience of the personal tragedies inflicted by Covid-19.
Such comments are unworthy and unwelcome.
Officials, journalists and sponsors have flown to Japan informed by the need for patience with the need for testing, testing and retesting. This is in everyone’s interests: not only those participants but on the communities and countries to which they will return.
Fans, largely, will be absent. This will disturb sportsmen and women used to the inspirational fuel of crowds, however large or small. But the overwhelming majority of Olympic spectators gaze in via the medium of television anyway.
Doubtless, TV directors will be ‘advised’ to think IOC-positive and concentrate their camera angles on the action and not on the (absent) audience.
For better or worse, let the Games begin.