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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Tokyo Olympics: The five-ring party ends

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Olympics 2020 could well have been a blank page in the history of this four-yearly multi-disciplinary global sporting competition. With COVID-19 ravaging the world and borders closed internationally, science rather than sport was at the top of our minds. Host country Japan, which had run up a bill of $30 billion to stage the Olympics, was in limbo about the future of the Games, and the athletes who had spent years preparing both physically and psychologically were left in a vacuum.

The Games, like everything else in our world, were in a state of frozen motion.

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But the decision was taken to move the 2020 Games to 2021. Opposition came from the Japanese people who were concerned about rampant strains of the virus entering the country as athletes from all over the world came to town, and from these protests, the sponsors seemed reluctant to be overtly backing the Games. The Games did go ahead and will be remembered forever as the COVID Games. Despite all the protestations, sport did what it does best – uplift us as we experienced the best in human athleticism, which when combined with the human spirit, showed how adversity can lead to resilience.

Indian Contingent marches by at the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo Olympics. ( Credit : Olympics Twitter)
Indian Contingent marches at the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo Olympics. Source: Twitter

Against the background of empty stadiums, the athletes thrilled television viewers worldwide. For 70 per cent of Australians in lockdown at some time during the Olympics, this was the much-needed tonic that boosted spirits. That Australia did well in most events (or at least the ones being telecast), only helped in bringing a smile as people went for their 5-km-radius walks.

What was indeed interesting as a migrant, was to see the greater proliferation of multicultural Australia on show. While one is used to seeing this on the football and hockey teams, the diversity on our basketball and women’s beach volleyball teams was a pleasure. To have an athlete like Sudanese refugee Peter Bol stop the nation in the 800m men’s final, was another example of how sport can bring a nation together.

READ ALSO: Rajeev Balakrishnan, former Indian Olympian, now an Aussie athletics coach

Neeraj Chopra
Olympic Gold medallist Neeraj Chopra. Source: IANS

As an Indian-Australian, one has engaged in many a discussion on the disparity of the performance of Indian and Chinese athletes. Both countries have over a billion people to draw from, yet China almost beat the United States to top the medal tally whereas India was way down the list, surrounded by Armenia, Dominican Republic and Kyrgyzstan, and with its solitary gold, finished at 47th spot.

The Chinese will certainly play up their achievements both internationally and internally to build up national pride, and so they should. They have been strategic in their approach with their well-documented 119 principle, which targeted 119 gold medals on offer from athletics, swimming, sailing, canoeing and rowing. They also strategized the women’s events with fewer participants. It worked for them, and has created a template for India. India needs a long-term strategy in place to encourage a generation of non-cricket focused athletes. Then for a proud Indian-Australian, the Olympics can bring double the joy.

Meanwhile, this special Independence Day edition evokes some mixed emotions and reminiscences of India – a country on the cusp of greatness but not taking the next steps quickly and surely enough. Here’s to the next 25 years and beyond of brilliance for India – in the field of sports and much, much more.

READ ALSO: ‘Northeasterners only visible when they wear a medal’


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Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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