I was first swept up by the Olympic storm in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Initially unaware of what the Olympics was about, having been too young to fully appreciate the Beijing 2008 Olympics, I began to take a keen interest in all the events leading up to the opening ceremony. Begging my parents to get tickets to all the biggest Olympic events occupied a substantial quantity of my time. Eventually, my dad caved in and joined the queue for tickets. Tickets to the men’s gymnastics finals, being a dedicated gymnast at the time, would have been my dream result.
I remember when my dad burst into my room with excitement to announce that we had tickets to the finals for… weightlifting. The disappointment on my face was clear. However, on the day, I was filled with Olympic fever, struggling to contain my excitement as we travelled via the DLR to the Excel Centre. My 4’11 stature felt drowned in the vast international crowds as we made our way to the arena to see what I had previously claimed to be “the most boring sport possible”. Now, I had become fascinated by the competitors and found myself in awe at the thousands of hours they had put in to become world-class athletes. The entire crowd shared a collective sense of awe at witnessing the pinnacle of human sporting excellence; from that day onwards, the Olympics had firmly seized my interests.
For the remainder of that summer, and the summer of 2016, I was glued to the sofa, soaking in every possible moment of Olympic glory. My fascination and inspiration only grew further as the Paralympics kicked off. Admittedly, I had been comparatively ignorant of disabled athletes before this. My opinion quickly changed. Learning the stories of the athletes, their struggles and journeys to sporting excellence became almost an addiction to me. Though it may sound hackneyed, I began to see the Olympics as more than just a sporting event.
The Olympics is a personal, national and human event. Almost everyone has their own Olympic memories and experience which affects them differently. Nations of people are brought together in moments of national pride, such as ‘Super Saturday’ for the people of Britain. The opportunity to host the games is an opportunity for a country to unite and show the world their beauty – exemplified in the opening ceremonies from the parading of our NHS to emphasising the artistic culture and wonder of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.
On a human level, the Olympics provides an opportunity for the global community to congregate – whether in person at the stadium, around our televisions, or increasingly on social media – to protest hate and demonstrate love. The Olympics has succeeded in doing this on numerous occasions. Jesse Owen’s four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin games being a true sporting demonstration against Hitler’s Aryan “super race”; the Black Power salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos bringing the civil rights movement to the international stage; Lawrence Lemieux sacrificing his almost certain podium finish to save the life of a fellow sailor; and the North and South Korean people marching under a united flag, to mention but a few.
I had been eagerly anticipating the Tokyo 2020 games over these past four years. I looked forward to the moments of individual excellence, national pride and human beauty. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee has had to make the decision to postpone the games to the 23rd of July 2021 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision has been made with three main considerations in mind: To protect the health of athletes and everyone involved; to safeguard the interests of athletes and of Olympic sport; and to minimise disruption to the global international sports calendar. Although I and the millions of other Olympic fanatics will have to wait a further year to witness these glorious games, the decision to postpone them will enable the Olympics to once again show to the world their true magic.
In the words of the President of the International Olympic Committee, the games may well be “the light at the end of the tunnel” in the darkness of these unprecedented times. The President of the International Paralympic Committee spoke from the heart when he said that the games held in 2021 will be an “extra-special display of humanity uniting as one”. The Olympic Games will be the first major global event in the post-Covid-19 world. They will bring humanity together in a showcase of talent and dedication; a reminder of the collective love and hope that will get us through these most difficult and painful times.