by Geoffrey Churchman
Aside from the fact that it was a year late because of a world-wide flap over a new coronavirus, and a rule that everyone not actually competing was expected to drape a piece of cloth over their faces, the two main things that stood out from the TV coverage of the Tokyo games were, firstly: the very efficient organisation that Japan did: everything seemed to happen with the precision of Japan’s high-speed Shinkansen trains; secondly, the constant mention of oppressive weather conditions there affecting participants in outdoor events.
Viewing the events in a living room in Waikanae when the weather outside was cold and frequently wet, it was hard to relate to the descriptions of heat and humidity — like I suspect most folks, I wished that some of the heat could make it down here and so equalise temperatures a bit. 🙂
Despite the restrictions because of virus concerns, the world’s greatest sports fest lived up to what it was expected to deliver, and particularly interesting were sports making their first appearance at an Olympics: surfing, skateboarding, baseball/softball, karate, and sports climbing.
The 50 km fast walking and the 42 km running marathons demonstrated that they are extreme endurance events: like most 60+, there was the inevitable contemplation that there’s no way I could manage even a tenth of the distances nowadays at those speeds — about 18 km/h average for the latter — and in 28 degrees Celcius at 70% humidity. The race walking event has been dropped from the schedule for Paris 2024 because there is no equivalent race for women. The 50km walk will be replaced by a mixed-gender race walk team event.
Back to the China virus — I couldn’t help wonder how much the Japanese had lost from having almost no paying spectators in the venues. Surely some, “socially distanced”, could have been allowed? The NY Times estimates the loss on the games at $US 35 billion. Even the TV1 presenters wondered why on earth were the medal winners forced to have their cloths on their triumphant faces during the medal and flag raising ceremonies, particularly when they were over, they came off for celebratory pics. Instead of the symbolic pieces of cloth, why didn’t they have a giant coronavirus ornament floating over the main stadium? 🙂 Six people including two Georgia medalists weer removed from Games for the breaking Cv rules. Vazha Margvelashvili and Lasha Shavdatuashvili, who won silver medals for Georgia in judo, had them removed after going sightseeing.
In the main stadium the individual challenges always make for better viewer experiences, these include the javelin, shot put, discus, long jump and high jumps, and indoors, weightlifting is always fun to observe. The more artistic competitions — gymnastics and team swimming displays — are always pleasant to watch, even when mistakes happen.
Here’s hoping the Paris Olympics in 2024 won’t be marred by coronavirus craziness. In the meantime, plenty of sportspeople everywhere will have new heroes to inspire equal or better feats.