THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The athletes marched in a glittery opening ceremony but waved to an empty stadium, just one of the many ways the Olympics will be far different this year than any other. 

They’re still being celebrated, as companies are showcasing advertising campaigns for the hundreds of hours of television coverage and streaming, and many still see them as a way to promote spirit, culture and peace. But because of the pandemic they’re a year late (and still being dubbed 2020, probably the only thing that still wants to wear that label). They were deemed dangerous and scorned as a result, and still suffer from a host of problems other than the pandemic that continues to rage in other parts of the world, including Japan. 

The silent stadiums lent an eerie quality to the games, and athletes worried about how they would do without fans. The retired Usian Bolt, one of the greatest Olympians, said he probably wouldn’t compete without them. That would be a shame for the event: He sprinted to back-to-back golds and the world record, which stands today. 

“I live for the fans, that energy and that vibe, that’s something I enjoyed doing,” he said. “I think it would be really tough for me personally to compete in an empty stadium. I’m happy I don’t have to do it.”

Still, Japan’s showcase delivered one of the more relatable moments of the pandemic with Japanese boxer Arisa Tsubata, who worked as a health care worker for COVID-19 patients: Tusbata opened the ceremonies as a solo runner on a treadmill. Tusbata had a good chance of making the games until the International Olympic Committee scrapped the qualifying event because of COVID-19 concerns. Tsubata, 27, said it was likely her last chance to make the games. 

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who will compete for Japan in the Olympics, also added some fire to the games –, literally and otherwise –, by lighting the torch while sporting flame-red hair. She said she had “no words” to describe how she felt about the honor.
“Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life,” wrote Naomi on her Instagram. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVES

The Just-Okay Olympic Opening Ceremony Somehow Warmed My Pandemic-Hardened Heart – Vogue – 7/23/2021
I was shocked to find myself watching the Olympic opening ceremony at the crack of 7 a.m. EST this morning, and actually…feeling things?

Olympism: What Is The Philosophy Behind The Olympics? – Forbes – 7/23/2021
Is it as simple as a non-violent way for your country to get bragging rights? The real answer is something more philosophical.

The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Was Depressing as Hell – The Daily Beast – 7/23/2021
The question raised by Friday’s Opening Ceremony was mostly: Is this respectful, or just stupid?

‘Save People’s Lives’: Opening Ceremony Dampened By Anti-Olympic Protest Over COVID – Daily Caller – 7/23/2021
Initially, the demonstrators were gathered outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and chanted “no to the Olympics” and “save people’s lives,” according to Fox News. Some were also holding signs that read “cancel the Olympics.”

In Japan, but not for Japan – The Guardian – 7/23/2021
More than 80% of the Japanese public wanted the Games put back another year or cancelled outright. The country’s chief medical adviser said holding it in these conditions was “not normal”, and the emperor voiced concern

As a Japanese consultant, I know why the Tokyo Olympics has become such a disaster – The Independent – 7/23/2021
The circumstances surrounding this year’s disastrous Coronalympics have only added a dampener to my already dampened spirit.

Did the Covid-19 Olympics have to be a mess? – Vox – 7/23/2021
Since July 1, more than 75 people associated with the Olympics have gotten back positive Covid-19 results. Then again, what do you expect when you host a mass sporting spectacle during a pandemic?

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVES


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