The dust has settled on the Olympics in Japan – the TV cameras and the world’s interest have moved on until Paris comes around in three years’ time to start the whole shebang off again.
While the games were on we were thrilled, bored, romanced, disappointed, impressed and depressed depending on your state of view and mind.
So, here’s a few of my armchair observations – the good and the not so good.
Good - How great was it to see so many GB ‘unknowns’ win gold or do exceptionally well for other medals. Leading up to Japan and while the Olympics were on the focus was on the ‘stars’, the favourites to excel and the characters the media had zoned in on because their back story fitted what they wanted to let us see and hear. But that’s not how it all worked out. BMX riders, modern pentathletes, swimmers and new triathletes joined many others from the ‘lesser’ sports and snatched their moment in the spotlight while the ‘stars’ nursed their injuries, their failures and their egos. How good would it be if these relative ‘nobodies’ remained ‘somebodies’. Unfortunately I suspect the media, agents and handlers will no doubt restore the ‘stars’ to their ‘rightful’ place in due course.
Wonderful to see India win its first ever track and field gold. How that must have gone down back home!
A personal high point – seeing Laura Muir win silver in the 1500metres. Laura has worked so hard for so long to win such recognition and she is a genuine star for all the right reasons in the GB team.
Great to see some new sports this time and those that included male and female teams like swimming and triathlon.
The camaraderie shown between Olympians of different countries in various events was heart-warming. When the Australian teenager won the Men’s skateboarding gold he was hugged by lots of his competitors in a genuine act of congratulation. An African gold medal track winner was magnanimous with her silver medal finalist by sharing her lap of honour with her. I saw many acts of such warmth and togetherness.
And perhaps the best memory of the whole games, the sheer brilliance of Mr and Mrs – King and Queen - Jason and Laura Kenny winning yet more golds to add to their amazing haul over the last few Olympics. These are true stars and more valuable as they are so unassuming and just normal.
The not so good - the BBC TV coverage was understandably diminished this time around as they hadn’t got the major rights and their update and live shows reflected this. But the issue was the unrelenting focus on the GB team. Naturally, we would want to know what our people were doing and winning (or not) but for a long time the fact that other countries and amazing athletes were competing was a distant side-show. An Australian female swimmer was doing wonders, winning gold after gold, and she was passed over. The coverage only began to widen when there was a big media/social media backlash but ,even then, the achievements of the rest of the world remained on the periphery. The Olympics is all about being the best and not about what country the best happen to come from. The medal table has become a modern-day version of war – who can beat who.
It’s because the Olympics are about being the world’s best that some sports do not belong in the Games at all as their individual pinnacles are achieved elsewhere. Football is the prime example. The Olympics competition is a side-show to the World Cup – no-one really cares and loads of football stars from Messi to Ronaldo wouldn’t turn up even if you paid them much, much more than they are already getting. The World Cup is what matters and no string of golds playing in the Olympics cuts much ice against a World Cup winner’s medal. So why play football in the Olympic at all? Baseball is the same. Japan won the Japan gold – do we really think they are the best baseball nation in the world? The supporters of the World Series would beg to differ. And there was something really odd about a hundred people standing on a podium to pick up their medals. Other sports like this are tennis and golf. Rugby is transformed for the Olympics into Rugby 7’s so they should use other version of these sports in the Olympics too such as seven-a-side football, or even target golf.
What’s with the track false start and you’re out idea? Sure, if an athlete it shown to do it persistently but to throw out a runner straight away is crackers. The GB 100 metre runner was summarily shown the red card and bang went all his years of training and commitment. Meanwhile a triathlete can dodge the extra seconds on transitions, show-jumpers going slow just get docked points, and, a recurring itch with me, tennis players get two serves a go!
I wished so many of the GB medallists when they were interviewed afterwards hadn’t trotted out exactly the same old ‘you can achieve your dreams’ jargon. It was as if they had learnt a script and recited it no matter what they were feeling. I absolutely agree with the sentiment just not the same old patter. Sure, the winners had worked hard to ‘achieve their dreams (though no matter how hard a lot of people try they will never do so – hard work is not a given to reach success) but the same words were spilled out as if it was a commercial advertising pay-off line. I noticed the great King and Queen Kenny didn’t go in for this and just… spoke normally.
But good or bad, on to Paris in '24.