Picture used for illustrative purpose only.
Gulf Today Report
Despite many challenges posed, Tokyo managed to pull a spectacular Olympic Games this month, ones that saw many feats of superhuman athleticism.
Athletes broke world records, and the host country enjoyed a record medal haul. But whilst enjoying the event is what attracts many to watch, it is what the Games significance that goes far beyond; As campaigned by the organising committee, the goal of the Olympic movement is to better the world and enrich youth through the power of sport whilst practiced with no discrimination and in an Olympic spirit.
Reflecting on Tokyo Games, and as this year’s Paralympics begin, Mike Davis, Sports Expert and Regional Director of CSM Sport and Entertainment in the Middle East, explained why the enduring legacy of the Tokyo Olympics will likely be the attention it brought to issues that go beyond the field of competition.
“Our five-year-old daughter is mesmerised by the sport of gymnastics and, above all, Simone Biles. The excitement she showed when watching the young superstar in action, captivated by her every movement, was endearing to see.
“So, when her hero stunned the world by telling her trainer ‘I don’t want to do it. I am done’ and very publicly walked away from the women’s team competition after just one vault, we expected heartbreak in the Davis household.
“Instead, there was a measured acceptance of the fact that Simone had simply been overwhelmed by a high stress situation. We understood that she is human. That she needed time and space to focus on herself and her own mental wellbeing.”
Davis goes on to explain how the last five years has enjoyed a shift in public perception around mental health.
“Since withdrawing, Biles has talked powerfully and poignantly about the mental health challenges of elite sport. She has taken a brave stand by admitting that she hoped speaking out would have a more profound effect on sport and society than winning multiple gold medals. And I’m sure she is right. I believe it will help catalyse a much greater degree of understanding that mental health exists in all of us, and sometimes you need a break, no matter who you are.
“And it not just Biles that is taking this courageous, assured, and measured position regarding their injuries. Sportsmen and women all around the world are highlighting the fact that mental injuries are just as serious and severe as physical ones.
“It is well publicised that the supposed poster child of the Tokyo Olympics, Naomi Osaka, took a self-enforced leave of absence from tennis. And after making her return, is still struggling with the weight of pressure and expectation that rests on her shoulders.”
The Olympics this year has also made huge strides on the diversity front.
“For Japan, the Olympics has helped them address another key topic that has traditionally been underrepresented; whether they can be both multicultural and Japanese. This year the Japanese team was not only the country’s biggest, but also the most diverse it has ever fielded. It included nearly three dozen athletes of mixed parentage, reflecting a gradual but important change in a still largely homogeneous country.
“The international attention around the Olympics has also led to soul-searching and introspection over discriminatory opinions and remarks that may have previously gone unchallenged.
With the start of Paralympics, Japan has the chance to use this iconic moment in time to address a topic – the acceptance and inclusion in society of people with disabilities.
“Studies showed the 2012 Paralympic Games improved public perceptions towards people with disabilities in the UK by 65 per cent, not to mention the legacy it has left. The visibility the games provided in Rio 2016 was unprecedented, reaching a global audience of 4.1 billion people, including a domestic cumulative audience of 472 million - helping challenge national stereotypes.”
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