This has not been your ordinary Olympic Games. This year’s event in Tokyo, Japan, will go down in the annals of Olympic history as one the world never wants to see again.
For starters, the 2020 Summer Olympics were held in 2021 and, for the record, the number of off-field, or non-athletic stories have outnumbered the normal.
Thanks, coronavirus. Thanks for nothing.
Athletes left and right opted out of the Games for a variety of reasons, primarily COVID-19 concerns. Among the best tennis players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, stayed home. Some of the world’s best golfers — Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and the world No. 1, Jon Rahm — were all absent from competition. Thankfully, Canadian superstar swimmer Penny Oleksiak was not.
The most celebrated Games’ performer, U.S gymnast Simone Biles, cited mental health concerns, accelerated by COVID-19, for pulling out of a number of events. Mental health injuries, we’re discovering, are just as debilitating as physical ones.
Others, like the world’s best female tennis player, Naomi Osaka, withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon due to mental health issues and then lost relatively early in her home country’s Olympics.
The world is different this year, as are the sports featured in the Olympics. Skateboarding, for example, was included in this year’s Games for the first time ever, and two 13-year-olds and a 16-year-old were medal winners in one of skateboard’s first events. Their total ages, 42, was approximately the average age of individuals on the U.S. equestrian squad. Faster, higher, stronger, indeed. You can also add ‘younger’.
Other new sports, all obviously aimed at trying to attract a younger demographic, included 3-on-3 basketball, surfing, sport climbing, BMX freestyle and karate.
It all might work out, and the new sports might attract more young people, but in general, TV ratings for the Games were at an all-time low — you’ve probably heard that young people today don’t watch as much TV as their parents — and COVID-19 was the dominating theme of the two-week sports festival. Reports out of Tokyo said the majority of citizens of Japan’s largest city were against the Games altogether.
When it’s all over, results from the 2020 Olympic Games will be posted in the record books and the Summer Olympic focus will switch to Paris, France, where the 2024 Games are only three years away. By then, the world will have hopefully returned to normal and sports and athletes will take centre stage, where it belongs. And we add an adjective to the Tokyo Games that may last forever — forgettable.
- Sam Farley, on Twitter: “You really can't beat the Olympics. That golden two-week period when you live and breathe handball, archery and gymnastics, only to forget about it for another four years afterwards.”
- Patti Dawn Swansson on Twitter: “Interesting that Elliotte Friedman regularly appears on Canadian hockey broadcasts looking like a railyard hobo, but he tidies himself up for American TV. I just wonder if ESPN instructed him to clean up his act. If so, why doesn't Sportsnet do the same?”
- Swansson again, on the Winnipeg Jets’ roster of small defencemen: “They'll never win the Stanley Cup with that undersized group, but one of them might win the Kentucky Derby.”
- Norman Chad, on Twitter: “With the USA losing to France in Olympic men’s basketball — due to an overlooked clause in the 1886 transaction between the two nations — the USA must now return the Statue of Liberty.”
- Phil Mickelson, on Twitter, after Tour player Harry Higgs begged for a Tuesday practice round with him, during which some gambling dough will be at stake: “This will save me a trip to the ATM . . . thank you.”
- Golf Channel broadcaster Shane Bacon, on Twitter: “I love that Sepp Straka's (Olympic Games) hat says ‘golf team’ on the side in case he gets confused and wants to try his hand at taekwondo.”
- Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Imagine how fast those Olympic swimmers would be if they didn't have to tow those huge banners with their name, place and their country's name and flag?”
- Another one from Kaseberg:” NBC say their ratings at the Tokyo Olympics are down 36 per cent from Brazil five years ago. Once again, Tokyo putting the limp in the Olympics.”
- Jack Finarelli, at thesportscurmudgeon.com: “If I woke you up from a dead sleep at 2 a.m. and asked you to give me all your free association thoughts that go with ‘Cleveland, would you have gotten to ‘Guardians’ any time before 6 a.m.?
- Headline at theonion.com: “Conservatives Blast Simone Biles For Robbing Them Of Opportunity To Criticize Her Win”
- Another one at theonion.com: “Kings concerned about character issues after multiple prospects lie about being excited to play for Sacramento”
- fark.com headline: “The fact that we don’t celebrate silver and bronze is (wrong),” says some person who didn’t win a gold medal”
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was written before the second of the week of the Tokyo Games. Columnist Bruce Penton will have a follow-up next week looking at the accomplishments of Canada's athletes.