That the Olympic Games is morally corrupt is evident. In the middle of a global pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused to cancel the 32nd edition not for the ‘spirit of the games’ but due to monetary concerns, while VVIPs and other officials in Tokyo flout Covid safety rules.
It is also evident that politicians across the world will steal every bit of the limelight they can from successful sportspersons. In the live telecast of the opening ceremony from India on the 23rd, the I&B minister’s face hogged the screen with only 20% left for the Indian contingent walking by, none of whom could be identified.
It is also evident for India specifically that every medal won will be turned into a sick positivity fest by a government desperate to deflect attention from the death, devastation, and pain it has caused from mishandling the pandemic.
Yet, I WILL watch the Olympics.
I’ll watch the Olympics to cheer for my two favourite teams – the Indian contingent and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team each of whose 29 members have stories that will break your heart. Much as I wish the impossible that India wins the highest medals, I also wish all 29 are celebrated for their courage.
I’ll watch the Olympics to see how the greatest show on earth looks like with near equal female participation at 49% for the first time and why it took so long - exactly 125 years since the first modern all-men games that barred women from participating.
I’ll watch the Games to cheer nations that have sent more women than men: US, China, UK, Australia, Canada and Russian Olympic Committee (since Russia is banned for national doping). And I’ll cheer the only two sportswomen in the contingent of what is perhaps the most patriarchal nation in the world: Saudi Arabia, hoping to live long enough to see that nation send more women than men someday.
I’ll watch the Olympics because I know there are perhaps hundreds of women from across nations – even those with larger women contingents - who have broken shackles of patriarchy to reach a stage where they will inspire millions of other little girls and women to break theirs, just like the Phogat sisters did in Haryana.
I’ll watch the Olympics for the hundreds of poor men and women who have overcome poverty, death and ruin from the worst parts of the world to reach the highest sporting stage, spending a lifetime just to win a minute or two of well-deserved glory, in the hopes that those few minutes will secure the remainder of their and their family’s lives somehow. For many of them just being in the fighting arena is a victory in itself.
I will watch the Olympics because I know many of the sportspersons there have lost their loved ones during the COVID19 pandemic and yet are participating because they know there are things bigger than death: courage, resilience and an ability to tell fickle fate when you are down and out; ‘is this the best you can do’.
I’ll watch the Olympics to keep an eye on the tiny and brave nations with impossible medal tallies, like a famine ravaged Ethiopia with 54 medals – all in long distance running, or half of Mumbai Cuba with 78 golds, or smaller than Andheri suburb in Mumbai – the 400,000 people strong Bahamas with six golds. My loudest cheers will go for my neighbour Bangladesh – the most populous nation to never have won a medal, and Congo - the largest land sized country yet to win one, and Monaco – the 2nd smallest country after Vatican City with 38,682 residents that has participated for 101 years without a single success. I’ll wait to see the big people from little countries whose names I haven’t even heard yet but whose sporting exploits will raise their country’s stature and leave a mark on the hearts of viewers.
I will watch the Games to cheer for a ‘chinki’ Mirabai Chanu, the nation’s first medallist this year who for a very brief while took India to the 2nd position on the medals tally - a feat we have never achieved – in the hopes that at least now the northern cow belt of the nation will stop being racist against us, their north-eastern siblings.
I’ll watch the Olympics to cheer for the moments of sportsmanship and sportswomanship, crying buckets at those who live ‘the spirit of the game’ because it is also the spirit of the planet and more than medals won is what will keep earth alive to have an Olympic games 1000 years later.
I will watch the Olympics to cheer for every woman in every competition because women are the bravest sportspersons, fighting through the blood, cramps and pain of their menstruation cycle, struggling not to let that affect their performance because an entire nations hope depends on them. I will watch them to learn from them how to focus on the goal and not the pain, and watch them inspire millions of other women – and men – with their guts, glory and unseen blood and tears.
I’ll watch the Games to cheer the exploits of the many first trans athletes and wait to hear and learn from the ongoing debate between the cisgendered and the transgendered because I frankly don’t know enough yet.
I’ll watch the Olympics in the hope that some sportsperson somewhere will take a knee or raise a fist against injustice in their corner of the globe or for all suffering people across the world.
I’ll watch the Olympics not for the extravaganza of the official shows which means nothing, but to see the extravaganza on the close-up of faces of athletes fighting not just their opponents but the demon of doubt inside that tells them they are not worth a medal, for I realise that only those who can win over themselves, will eventually win over the world.
I’ll watch the Olympics because in a world that is increasingly divided into narrow factions even inside families, this is one truly international event that says that we can compete fiercely with each other and yet do it politely and within boundaries because at the end of the day we are but one human specie in the universe with only one planet to call home that we need to come together, like in the Olympics, to save. Maybe someday there’ll be a Ecolympics where nations will compete to implement ideas that will save this beautiful planet.
I’ll watch the Olympics because I know nothing in the world is absolutely black or totally white that we have to find our path forward though skies of grey and because I can sift through both in these games as well as - I am learning to - in life.
I will watch the games to cheer the Olympians even as I criticise the Olympic Games because I know that it is indeed possible, to segregate, the two.
As you can see I will watch the games to cheer for all the nations in the world because what we need today is not the same nationalism that pushed the world into two World Wars a century ago but internationalism, planetarism, globalism – call it what you may but a system where people cooperate with each other based not on ethnicity, race, religion or nationality, but on shared goals and interests. Because if anything can save this sinking planet, it is this cooperation of which the Olympic Games is a prime example.
Yes, I will watch Tokyo 2020 held in 2021 that will, weirdly, still be called Tokyo 2020.
(Satyen K. Bordoloi is a scriptwriter, journalist based in Mumbai. He loves to let his pen roam the intersection of artificial intelligence, consciousness and quantum mechanics. His written words have appeared in many Indian and foreign publications.)
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