The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which should never have been held, were, and you know what — they turned out to be pretty good.
The games could have been dubbed “The Survival of The Luckiest Olympics” because despite unprecedented heat and humidity, a tropical storm, a 6.0 earthquake and a country-wide pandemic resurgence — all the events were completed and nobody died. Throw in some locusts and they could have held the games in the New Testament of The Bible.
The games could have been dubbed “The Dude Olympics” with surfing, rock climbing and skateboarding on the agenda, posing as legitimate international sports. Rabid fans of dog walking, hot dog eating and jig saw puzzling must have been devastated when their ‘sports’ were denied inclusion into the XXXII Olympiad.
There was the good – the stellar performances of our Canadian women’s swim team which garnered six of Canada’s 24 medals total. There was the bad — the decision to allow Russia and it’s state-sponsored doping program to participate in the games, coming away with 69 medals. A nice touch would have been to present the Russians with medals… that were already tarnished. There was the double ugly — the German cycling coach who used a racial slur while referring to opponents from Africa and the German equestrian coach who punched a horse in the head when he, Saint Boy, failed to respond to his rider’s commands.
Many horses were spooked when they came up to the tenth jump of the equestrian course and spotted a life-size statue of a sumo wrestler right next to it. From behind it looked less like a rikishi athlete and more like a massive guy in a diaper squatting in order to… and I’m sure horses like Saint Boy must have thought: “No, I’m not going near that jump. They’ll blame that stuff on me!”
Despite all the past doping, the corruption in venue voting, the massive TV contracts and shameless corporate branding — there was a moment that showed millions of viewers why the Olympics do hold out hope for international integrity and even world peace. Spontaneously Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Granmarco Tamberi began hugging and crying after they failed three times to break a tie at the top of the high jump competition and decided instead to share the gold medal between them.
Those who wish for the purity of sports to outstrip the politics of the Olympics were kind of gobsmacked by MBC, the South Korean broadcaster which posted captions on the big screen as the teams of 206 nations entered the stadium for the opening ceremony.
Perhaps expecting a photo of its coat of arms, athletes from Haiti were greeted with the caption: “The political situation is fogged by the assignation of the president.” The tiny contingent from the Marshall Islands were greeted with “Once a nuclear test site for the U.S.” And keeping with the traditional Olympic theme of total devastation, the parade of athletes from Ukraine saw an image of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Italy was represented by a slice of pizza, Norway was linked to a salmon fillet — I’m not making this up — and Team Romania had to walk past an image of Dracula.
The only event I followed faithfully was women’s soccer in which our tough Canadian side beat the odds, beat the Americans, won the gold medal and earned the “Class Act of The World” title. Overmatched they battled through the tournament, heads down, quiet and composed. Unlike the American women’s team which once again proved to be a bunch of arrogant whiners. US star Megan Rapinoe dissed her neighbour to the north with the classless remark: “Obviously we never want to lose to Canada.” In doing so she picked up the torch of lousy sportsmanship from Abby Wambach who in the 2012 London Olympics goaded the Norwegian referee into calling a lame ‘delay of game’ violation against Canada thereby costing us the game and the gold.
Winning the gold for unsportsmanlike like behaviour, a French long-distance runner was caught on camera pushing all the bottles of water off a table meant for dehydrating marathoners before taking one for himself. Tokyo officials are fortunate Morhad Amdouni did not compete in any event involving a gun.
An older Japanese man showed up at the village gate every day at 7:15 a.m. to encourage all athletes, not just the stars, with a sign that read: “Good morning athletes! Even if you don’t get a medal, you’re still the BEST!!” The guy who wished to remain anonymous was speaking to a large crowd since 11,000 athletes went home with little more than a memory. (Eventually Frenchman Morhad Amdouni hijacked the team bus and ran the old man over.)
If there was a prize for great immigration policy — with China-born Olympic swimming sweetheart and gold medalist Maggie MacNeil from London, Ontario and Somalia-born and silver medalist Mohammed Ahmed (nickname Mospeed) from St. Catharines, Ontario — Canada would have won that event as well.
So it’s Sayonara to Tokyo and Bienvenue to Paris in just three years where break dancing, twerking and tweeting will be recognized as Olympic events. Honestly, one of those will be deemed a sport.
Oh, and there was that kiss. After French swimmer Florent Manaudou and his Danish girlfriend Pernille Blume both medalled at the Aquatics Centre they hugged and then they pulled down their masks and kissed. Illegal but then all the more touching. As international athletic intermingling goes, this poolside peck in Tokyo was a far cry from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro where officials handed out 450,000 condoms to athletes. And no, I looked it up — most of them were not used to do Howie Mandel impersonations. For the record, ‘Boinking’ is not yet an Olympic sport.
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