The Tokyo Olympics: a welcome distraction

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Even though the whole event has wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule, it’s safe to say that this Tokyo has been a welcome distraction from the devastation and division that the coronavirus pandemic continues to leave in its wake. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic put these Olympic games into jeopardy again earlier this year, with widespread public opinion in Japan calling for a further postponement of the sporting action with fears of another wave of the pandemic running high. But thank goodness these Olympic games were able to go ahead safely this year because boy did this nation need some positivity. For those not over the heartbreak of the Euros, this Olympic action may have gone some way to mending your wounded souls.

This Olympic games has not failed to deliver the drama, excitement and intensity of previous sporting tournaments

This Olympic games has not failed to deliver the drama, excitement, and intensity of previous sporting tournaments – it’s certainly been a good one for Great Britain fans – but just from the subdued atmosphere of the opening ceremony, it was clear that this would be different from any other. During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all had time to reflect on what matters in life and are finally starting to prioritise our own mental health and wellbeing, and these reflections have clearly extended to the athletes too. With the brave admissions of Simone Biles as just one example, it’s clear to see that these are making positive and empowered headlines from outside as well as inside the arena.

As I said earlier, the medal haul for Team GB has been very impressive, as athletes have excelled in new Olympic sports like skateboarding (go Sky Brown!) and have also shown inspiring team spirit in new events like the mixed triathlon relay, where we won one of our many gold medals. It really has been brilliant to watch all of these terrific and (almost) tear-jerking performances on the TV screen, as well as all the behind-the-scenes action – Tom Daley, I am in awe of your knitting skills. Hasn’t it been nice to switch on the 6 o’clock news and see all the Olympic glory bits, instead of more bad news about politics or coronavirus? In many ways, it feels as if this Olympic coverage has been a welcome respite for the nation, after what has been a pretty horrendous 18 months or so.

It really has been brilliant to watch all of these terrific and (almost) tear-jerking performances

But if you cast the net of Olympic news stories just a little wider than the efforts of Team GB, you strike what can simply be described as ‘moral gold’. For those who have had more interesting things to do than sit in front of a TV screen for hours each morning, then let me fill in the gaps. The men’s high jump final: the tension is building as more and more athletes fail to clear the ever-increasing height of the high jump pole. In the end, two men are tied for gold position: Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar. Two fierce opponents, but great friends away from the pole, so they decided to share the gold medal place instead of trying to battle it out further. If Spielberg doesn’t jump on that heart-warming story, then I’ll be gobsmacked.

But jokes aside, this sort of story sums up the whole ethos of the to me; sportsmanship and morality are favoured higher than ruthless competition and individualism. If there is one thing I learnt from the British Taekwondo coverage (my new obsession), it is this: losers of Taekwondo matches wish their opponents good luck for their future matches in the Olympics, as goodwill may favour the loser’s chances in future matches. This particularly stood out as a moral message that we could all do well to take into our daily lives – an Olympic moral legacy, if you will. The best way I can describe it is a moral karma system, which I feel could be a good lesson for us all, to perhaps make the world as kind a place as this has been. Well, it’s worth a try at least!

Image: Kyle Dias via Unsplash

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