To paraphrase 10CC, “I don’t like the 2020 Olympics. I love it”
It was ten years ago that I wrote about getting all the Olympics tickets I wanted for the London Olympics, ie none. I couldn’t think of anything worse than queuing up with thousands of other people to watch a dot in the distance perform in a sport I knew nothing about, with no commentary to explain anything. Adding into that over priced food and drink and no loos and I was relieved we didnt get to go to London but instead watch it all at home. Obviously I had applied for some tickets, mostly the rowing (because Jonnie was rowing at school) and hockey because there is a strong family link to rowing but beyond that? Not so much.
That wasn’t to say I wasn’t interested in the event, I lapped it up (no pun intended) and remembered crying as “Super Saturday” unfolded.
Fast forward to this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics though and to be honest I really wasn’t interested in it. The time difference meant that watching events would be hard. The BBC could only show two live events at once so we might not be able to see what we wanted to see, instead only seeing what they felt would be most popular, and it was with a backdrop of Covid still. Fundamentally I still didn’t think large events should be happening, people being flown across the world to compete in events and wasn’t going to get invested in it. I can honestly say I just wasn’t interested.
And then it started.
I was invested from the start. Waking up and scrolling Twitter to find out what had happened in the early hours of the morning, catching it on the early morning news, watching the repeats in the afternoon and then making sure we didn’t miss the daily round up at 7pm with Clare Balding. I wanted it all.
Not just the sports either, and I think that is what made it for me, and is why I changed my tune. I realised what it meant to these athletes. Athletes who had gone through so much to be selected, to stay fit despite training facilities being closed in the past year, gained funding. Who had given up so much and left their families and loved ones behind to then compete without crowds, and in 32 degree heat. I fell in love with them all.
Nothing will ever take away from London 2012 but Tokyo 2020 was about so much more than the sporting events. Simone Biles admitting her mental health wasn’t as strong as we all assumed. That Tom Daley was sitting pool side knitting. Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi hugging each other as they decided to share the gold medal in high jump. Sky Brown being hugged by her fellow competitors. Kye White lifting Beth Shriever up when they both won their medals. I mean the list is endless.
All of those moments, and the moments we were able to witness showing friends and families holding watch parties back home made these games. Never before have we been able to hear about the families supporting their loved ones reach the pinnacle of their sport, fulfilling a long held dream to represent their country, nor seem then up close and personal. Yes we might have seen them cheering on proudly from the stands but this year was different. They were at home, so were we.
We were one. At the 2020 Olympics we were all cheering on together and I am going to miss that in Paris.