Perseverance Games: The Surrealist Olympics Nearing Its End

In this July 23, 2021, file photo, Naomi Osaka of Japan
Image Source: AP

This July 23, 2021, Naomi Osaka of Japan lights a cauldron during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The exhausting, enlightening, sometimes infuriating 2020 Tokyo Olympics will smack the cauldron on Sunday – in fact, held in 2021. These are games that were to be tolerated, not celebrated.

They will be both.

Imperfect but not impossible, these Olympics – which came into existence despite a pandemic that has sparked worldwide suspicion and strong opposition from Japan’s own citizens – may simply go down as the Games that changed the sport for good. Gave.

These became the Olympics where the athletes had their say. Olympics where mental health became as important as physical. The Olympics where tales of perseverance – spoken, documented and discussed aloud and at length – often weigh heavily on actual performance.

It was not only those who stood on medals, standing in hyper-scratched pressure cookers in Tokyo, where spit testing for COVID-19 and sleeping on cardboard-framed beds were part of the daily routine. It was all.

Their voices, big and small, were heard through hundreds of reminders that their mental and physical health was not for sale, not even to the $15.5 billion giant who was their greatest. Outlines dreams.

Those voices were notably reflected in the words of Simone Biles, who, initially, reset the conversation upon exiting the gymnastics meet, declaring that her well-being was more important than the medals.

“It was something that was out of my control. At the end of the day, my mental and physical health is better than any medal,” said Biles, who benched herself while battling “twists.”

and by tennis player Naomi Osaka, who lit the skillet on Day 1, but only after spending the summer insisting that the world listen to her — really listen — rather than just watching her on the court. The planet’s highest-paid female athlete and the host country’s poster girl, she faced expectations that were hard to handle.

“I definitely feel there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said, preferring host nation Japan to light the pan.

Hundreds of athletes found some way to use their voice, which they hadn’t considered until the Tokyo Games—and the seismic 18 months that led to it—but all commanded it.

They learned to talk about what it felt like to be sacrificed and housing for four, then five, coming to the Games without friends and family, putting themselves out there, and knowing they would not be judged. Not who they are but how fast they run, how well they shoot, or whether they stick to the landing.

“I’m afraid my qualifications have to do with whether I win or not,” Alison Felix wrote the morning before the bronze-medal run in the 400 meters.

“But right now I have decided to leave that fear behind. To understand that I am enough.”

They came in all shapes and sizes. A transgender lifter, a non-binary skateboarder, and Quinn, the first openly transgender Olympian to win a gold medal.

Teen skateboarders, and surfers seek out the waves—most of whom had never dreamed of being on the Olympic stage, hugging and sharing tips and reminding us all that it’s supposed to be fun.

He told tales of sportsmanship: the high jumpers headed for the first tense tiebreaker, who stepped back and told a track official that they should both win a gold.

And about the advocacy: Judging by the midday gold medal game in the sweltering heat of the Olympic Stadium and the decision-making footballers deserved better.

The world’s top tennis players sought to reschedule their matches, a request that went unheeded until Paula Badosa left the court in a wheelchair with heatstroke and Daniil Medvedev told the chair umpire, “I Can end the match but I can die. If I die, are you going to be responsible?”

And about mental health: During a post-race interview, runner Noah Lyles admitted that he came to running as much to spread the gospel that became the slogan of these horrific Games held during tumultuous times: it’s okay not to be okay.

And about gender equality and inclusion: The International Olympic Committee added five new sports and 18 new events for Tokyo to create equal numbers of women and men for every sport, except baseball and softball.

But when Britain’s first female black swimmer was denied the use of a hat that would fit her huge Afro, the lack of diversity in the pool became a hot topic of conversation.

Alice Dearing, co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, said after the women were open, “I just want people to know that no matter your race or background, if you don’t know how to swim, come in and swim.” Learn.” Water Marathon.

“Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not for you.”

IOC President Thomas Bach said two days before the finale that the Tokyo Games “exceeded my personal expectations,” because when spectators were banned as a pandemic, he feared that “the Olympic Games without May become the Olympic Games of the Spirit.”

Instead, Bach said, he found intimacy in the empty spaces that made for intense environments.

“In many cases you didn’t realize there were no spectators,” he said.

“Maybe in some cases you can feel the athletes’ emotions up close and better than being surrounded by so many spectators.”

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