Tokyo Olympics: Moving forward, united by emotion - GulfToday

Tokyo Olympics: Moving forward, united by emotion


Image used for illustrative purpose only.

The Tokyo Olympics which should have been held last year but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have got off to a magnificent but subdued start in the National Stadium, which was mostly empty but for a thousand and more spectators, Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who inaugurated the games, and the athletes from all countries.

There was a poignant moment when those who died during the COVID-19 pandemic and the past Olympians, including the Israel Olympic team that was assassinated in the 1972 Munich Olympics, were remembered and there was a minute of silence as a mark of respect. More significant is the theme of the opening ceremony on Friday, which was ‘Moving Forward,’ which is a positive look into the future in the middle of the coronavirus gloom that has enveloped the world.

This is also the theme of the closing ceremony on August 8. But there is an additional theme in the opening ceremony called ‘United By Emotion,’ which reflects the sentiment across the globe as there has been a rare sense of international togetherness during the global pandemic of the past one-and-a-half years.

The Olympic spirit of internationalism, which was the main intent of the French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin, who had started the modern Olympics movement in 1894, and the first Olympics in the modern period were held in Athens in Greece as the idea of the games was inspired by the Olympic games held in ancient Greece and where the local wars halted during the games. Interestingly, the Olympics have managed to survive the two world wars and the Cold War as well as the many economic crises. But they were held in a new venue for the last 125 years but for the 1940 and 1944 games which were interrupted by the Second World War. The games resumed in 1948 at the London Olympics. The 1980 Olympic Games were held in Moscow though the Western countries, led by the United States, had boycotted them due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978.

Whatever the controversies which plagued the International Olympics Association (IOA) at one point of time, the games have been a source of inspiration of immense courage, inspiration and exceptional achievement in the sporting events. We remember among many the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, Nadia Comaneci, who scored a perfect 10. Then there was Mark Phelps, the extraordinary American swimmer, who won a total of 28 Olympic medals spread over four Olympics Games starting in Athens in 2004, and ending the run in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, while continuing his running streak at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London games.

The idea behind the games is to celebrate the physical prowess of human beings in a way that does not harm people, and that sport unites human beings of all nations, colours and races. At least one in four years, national teams gather and compete against each other, win and lose, without acrimony and enmity. This despite the wars between countries, ideological, economic, and military rivalries between countries.

The Olympic Games keep the hope alive that human beings can compete with each other, celebrate each other’s achievements and show that humanity can co-exist in peace.

The Olympics is more than an international sporting event. It uses sport as a symbol to bring people together, which is an important thing in a divided world. While we enjoy the sporting spectacle and applaud the achievements of individuals and teams in diverse events, the Olympics spirit transcends the sport. It holds out the hope of unity of mankind.

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