TOKYO – Since the dawn of time, the Olympics have represented the best of us, coming together, times when we try to bring our hopes and dreams to life.
Fate gave these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games a special vocation.
Now the question: how are we going to write their story?
Postponed for a year due to a global pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics kicked off on Friday night in an island nation now suspicious of the Olympics with a muted opening ceremony, which aimed to pay tribute to the millions of people lost to the coronavirus. For the first time in an opening ceremony, the IOC also officially paid a silent tribute to the 11 Israelis murdered during the 1972 Games.
The stadium, with a capacity of 68,000 seats, had only some 950 officials and several thousand journalists. For this most limited in-person audience and, of course, literally billions of people around the world who watch television, Friday’s tone resolutely reflected an Olympics on the move despite unprecedented challenges. One scene showed a boxer, alone, on a treadmill, a spotlight on her in the middle of the stadium – emblematic of training alone in the darkness that was the pandemic year of 2020.
Then came the contrast of the parade of nations, which, although reduced in number, offered the first sparks of light: the sincere joy and the fellowship of the athletes.
Exuberant, the Argentine team jumped in and around the stadium. Jamaica runway star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce showed up with her hair dyed bright red. Bermuda shorts on the Bermuda guys: fabulous in pink.
That reliable sunbeam, Pita Taufatofua of Tonga, returning for a third consecutive Games, summer and winter, showed up – as usual – shirtless and oiled up. He is due to compete in taekwondo on Tuesday.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron.
As Britain’s Andy Murray, two-time tennis gold medalist, said a few days ago: “For those still living through the worst of the pandemic and others who have lost so much in the past year , these Games can be a beacon to hope. “
Because of the Covid:
Everyone who marched on Friday wore masks.
A delegation of just 22 people came from Britain, the smallest since the boycott-scarred 1980 Moscow Games.
The American team has more than 600 people. Less than half walked in the parade. Many are not yet there.
With the exception of North Korea, which withdrew from these Games, the parade had every second delegation, 206, including the Refugee Olympic team. The Comoros, in East Africa, sent three athletes. Suriname too, in South America. War-torn Syria sent six, including a woman, 12-year-old table tennis player Hend Zana, the youngest competitor at the Games.
Can the athletes, over 17 days, offer this hope, pull these Games out of their many complexities and uncertainties?
Even the name. By choosing last year to postpone – a first in Olympic history – the International Olympic Committee has chosen to convene the Games taking place in 2021… Tokyo 2020.
Basically there won’t be any fans in the stands. How will it affect – everything?
How many athletes, if any, will be absent due to positive tests? Or search for contacts?
How, if at all, will the virus affect the number of medals? Will the United States stay ahead? Will China surge?
These other uncertainties also:
The IOC added surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing. Also: 3 × 3 basketball. A one-timer: karate. Back: baseball and softball. Will everything prove a draw?
Michael Phelps is out of the pool, Usain Bolt out of the track. Is there a next world star?
US men’s basketball team, lock for gold since 2008 – Can it happen again in Tokyo?
How many Olympic or world records, if any, will fall? What about super shoes in athletics?
Relaxed rules on athlete expression – how is that going to play out here?
As human beings, we aspire to what is safe. So much about Tokyo 2020 remains uncertain.
Sure: a year late, they are finally here. With the spotlight on the athletes. Well Named.
Suggest a correction