The Tokyo Olympics Cheers Up the World

The Tokyo Olympics Cheers Up the World
The Tokyo Olympics Cheers Up the World

The Tokyo Olympics concluded with a colorful bang as fireworks lit up the city sky alongside dramatic light shows. With athletes having gone home with their hauls of medals and memories, we can only now look back to one of the most turbulent Olympic Games ever held.

Announced in 2013, the 2020 Olympics went through hell and high water before it became a reality. COVID-19 made it imperative for the IOC and Japanese government to push the date of the Games back a year. The same pandemic has been taxing the government and its citizens – much like the rest of the world – while the former has had to deal with the organization of what it only the biggest global sporting event. It wasn’t even sure that the Games would push through.

In fact, in the history of the Olympics, local opposition had never been this strong or voiced out so openly. From online petitions gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures to protesters physically gathering outside the Olympic stadium, the disapproval of the host citizens was palpable.

And yet, the government and the IOC plodded on. With an admirable tenacity, Prime Minister Suga’s cabinet went to work — vaccinations were rolled out quickly, a state of emergency was implemented, an Olympic bubble was created, and more. The result was an event that touched the hearts of countless individuals.

Once the sports got going and athletes starting performing, the tune slowly started to change. Despite the fact that spectators were banned from the arenas and stadiums, the Opening Ceremony was quite extraordinary for those of us watching at home. For sure, the atmosphere on-site was a drastic change from all the other Olympics in the past, but the organizers brilliantly turned their creativity into made-for-television performances.

Then there are the athletes themselves who, win or lose, made their compatriots proud. The athletes who tugged at our heartstrings as they bared their very selves to the public.

By now, athletes like Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifter, Philippines), Flora Duffy (triathlete, Bermuda), and Fares Ibrahim Elbakh (weightlifter, Qatar) are household names, having won the first gold medals for their respective countries.

Others like Polina Guryeva (weightlifter, Turkmenistan), Alessandra Perilli (trap shooter, San Marino), and Hugues Fabrice Zango (triple jumper, Burkina Faso) did their countrymen proud by winning their nations’ first ever Olympic medals.

More records were broken, notably the host country making a record medal haul of 58, coming in third overall. This certainly boosted the Japanese people’s morale and helped placate the critics.

Sunisa Lee became the first Hmong to win an Olympic medal. Though the gymnast participated under the American flag, she proudly waved her ethnicity as well.

The uplifting spirit that the Tokyo Olympics brought was not only about the medals and the wins.

The Games introduced us to the Refugee Team, with Yusra Mardini as one of the star swimmers. Originally from Syria, she crossed the ocean to Greece with her sister on an inflatable boat. This team has banded together to tell the world their story and raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

The LGBTQ+ community was well-represented during the Games, with British diver Tom Daly one of the most high profile athletes. He captured the hearts of fans across genders as he shared his love for knitting and crocheting, which he did during the Olympics to calm him down.

They say you’re never too old to do what you love, and Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan lived that truth as she became the oldest female Olympic gymnast of all time.

Beyond their homelands, men, women, and children were cheering for these athletes, finding solace from the burdensome life that is the pandemic.

These are the people who made the Olympics a success. These are the people who lit up faces the world over.

The Olympics may have had a rocky start, but hindsight is always 20-20. For a brief moment, the world was able to forget the rigors of life. And for this, we thank the host nation, the organizers, and the athletes.