Tokyo 2020 will be remembered for being celebrated despite a pandemic and for the athletes who raised their voices to talk about mental health
Tiring, enriching and, at times, infuriating, the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020 they come to an end this Sunday when the cauldron is turned off.
More imperfect or impossible, these Olympic Games–celebrated practically by force despite a pandemic, and which sparked worldwide skepticism and strong opposition from the Japanese themselves – could go down in history as the joust that changed the sport forever.
These were the Olympic Games in which the athletes raised their voices. Were the Olympics in which mental health became as important as physical. The Olympics where the stories of perseverance overshadowed sports results.
It was not only those who took the podium in a fair analyzed under a microscope, where saliva tests and cardboard beds were part of daily life. It was all the participants.
Their voices were heard through hundreds of reminders that their mental and physical health was not for sale, not even to a giant of $ 15.5 billion that he owns many of his biggest dreams.
Their voices were remarkably reflected in the words of Simone biles, who in the early days restarted the conversation by withdrawing from the gymnastics program by declaring that her well-being was more important than medals.
“It was something that was not in my power. At the end of the day, my physical and mental health is better than any medal,” he said. Biles, who was absent from most jousts after suffering bouts of disorientation, known in gymnastic slang as “twisties“.
And in Naomi osaka, the tennis player who lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony, but only after spending much of the summer insisting that the world listen to her – really pay attention to her – and not just watch her performance on the courts. The highest paid athlete on the planet and the host country’s image faced expectations that were difficult to manage.
“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” he said. Osaka.
Hundreds of athletes found some way to raise their voices in a way they hadn’t considered until Tokyo 2020 –and the turbulent 18 months that preceded it.
They learned to talk about what it felt like to sacrifice and adjust for four years, then five, to come to the Games without family or friends, to show themselves, to know that they would be judged not for who they are, but for how fast they run, or they shoot or if they hit it off.
“I have been afraid of being valued in case I win or lose,” he wrote. Allyson felix the morning before winning the bronze medal in the 400 meters that made her the most decorated runner in the history of the Olympic Games. “But at this moment I have decided to leave fear behind. Understand that I am enough.”
Voices rose in all shapes and sizes. A transgender weightlifter, a skater non-binary, and Quinn, the first openly transgender Olympian to win a gold medal. Skaters teenagers and surfers in search of the scariest wave – most of whom never dreamed of being on an Olympic stage – hugging and sharing advice, reminding us all that this is supposed to be fun.
They wove stories of sportsmanship: The high jumpers heading into a tense tiebreaker for first place, but decided to step back to tell a steward that they should both win gold.
And activism: Soccer players scheduled to play the gold medal match in the scorching midday heat at the Olympic Stadium, and deciding they deserved better. The best tennis players in the world demanding that their matches be rescheduled, a request that had fallen on deaf ears until the Spanish Paula Badosa left the field in a wheelchair victim of a heat stroke and that the Russian Daniil Medvedev told the chair umpire: “I can finish the game, but I I can die If I die, are you going to be responsible?
And of mental health: In a post-race interview, the sprinter Noah lyles He recognized that his presence in the fair was not only to compete, but to spread a message that would become the motto of a fair organized in very delicate moments: It is okay not to be well.
And gender equality and inclusion: The International Olympic Committee added five new sports and 18 new events to the program Tokyo to create an equal number of jousts for men and women in each discipline, except for baseball and softball. But when the first black British swimmer was denied permission to wear a cap to cover her bulky afro, the conversation about the lack of diversity in the pool grew louder.
“I just want people to know that regardless of your race or background, if you can’t swim, go in and learn to swim,” he said. Alice dearing, co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, after the women’s open water swim competition. “Don’t let anyone tell you that this is not for you.”
The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, said two days before the closing that the fair of Tokyo “far exceeded my personal expectations” because once the attendance of fans was banned as a preventive measure during the pandemic, feared that “these Olympic Games could become one Olympic Games without soul”.
Instead, he said, he found that the intimacy of the empty sands created a more intense atmosphere. “In many of the cases you did not realize that there were no spectators,” he said. “Perhaps in some cases it was even possible to experience the feelings of the athletes better and more closely than if they were surrounded by so many spectators.”
Bach’s job is to rate the Olympic Games as a success. Although, perhaps, that goal was met simply by reaching the finish line. But, without a doubt, there were memorable and spectacular moments.
· Italy surprising the world by establishing itself as a power in speed tests with the unexpected triumph of Marcell jacobs in the 100 meters, followed by the “Four Ferraris” team that won another gold medal in the 4×100 relay.
· Caeleb Dressel winning five golds in the pool.
· Sunisa Lee’s gold in the individual show. And the fact that, in these games where the use of social networks and TikTok established itself as the favorite platform for athletes, read attributed his bronze on the uneven bars to the distractions created by his newfound internet fame.
“I think everyone will be quite happy that this event is taking place in the times we live in at the moment,” he said. Alexander Zverev after winning gold in the men’s singles for Germany.
Although there were intermittent protests – a group of about 10 people outside of the men’s tennis final, enough for the players to hear, and another small demonstration outside the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony and before athletics events. – the Japanese had reason to celebrate. The host nation set a goal of winning 30 medals in Tokyo and he was about to double his harvest with 56 metals until Saturday night.
Outside the Olympic bubble, daily cases of COVID-19 they shot in Tokyo to record numbers, although Bach exonerated the Olympics because the 11,000 athletes were far from the population and the diagnostic tests that were performed regularly on the rest of those involved in the joust showed extremely low rates of infection.
The pandemic persists, and Olympic Games Winter in Beijing are scheduled to open in just six months. And the COVID-19 it is just one of the problems facing the next fair. The COI it has rejected several recent requests to withdraw the Games from China on allegations of human rights violations.
“Our responsibility is to hold the Games,” said the spokesman for the COI, Mark Adams. “It is the responsibility of others – United Nations that have always supported the Olympic Games and other governments to deal with it – and it’s not up to us. The COI it must remain neutral. “
However the COI he did get involved when Belarus tried to repatriate the sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya after he criticized his coaches on social media. He helped intervene while she traveled to Poland on a humanitarian visa. Subsequently, expelled two Belarusian coaches and withdrew their Olympic credentials for their involvement in the Tsimanouskaya case.
The Games, of course, will continue. Forever. Japan will deliver the flag to France on Sunday for the fair of Paris 2024. The organizers will say goodbye with a ceremony on the theme of “Shared Worlds” designed for athletes and spectators to “think about what the future holds” and “expresses the idea that each of us lives in our own world.”
Athletes lived it in Tokyo, where the Olympic Games will be remembered forever as the Perseverance Games.