HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Let's count the curses of the 2021 Olympics so far...
"On your marks, ready, set, go." Do people still say that? I have no idea. But if they did, those three words were postponed for over a year when it came to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan because... COVID. You know that worldwide, global death trap that is still rattling and riling up several millions of people round the globe?
Yet, in spite of its persistence - and resistance, might I add - the Olympic committee decided that enough was enough and they should go ahead with the age old event anyway. And boy, it is shrouded in anxiety, agony, darkness, doom, gloom and a lot of controversy.
The controversy portion needs little explaining. It kind of speaks for itself. Why would anyone be interested in watching people throw things, or jump over things or dive into things when the world is being held together by frontline workers and overworked undertakers? The doom and gloom part is very much tied with the controversy part and its dark cloud hung about long before the opening ceremony. But by the god Olympus, was that very ceremony the cherry on the lava cake that is life at the moment.
There were ominous performances on a field that seemed much too large, empty stadiums, eerily quiet atmospheres, balls flying around in radioactive air and athletes pulling out of the competition because of a pandemic. It is all very, very sad. And here are just a few reasons why:
- Softball players are out in rural Fukushima, devastated by the 2011 nuclear disaster, hoping to avoid a brown bear that is on the rampage, while also dodging radioactive boars. As if running round and round a field isn’t fun enough, they now also have to escape predators, wild pigs and several types of air-borne poisons.
- Practically everyone associated with the opening ceremony has had to resign because they said offensive things about fat women, the holocaust or mentally disabled people. It turns out that one of the most evolved nations in the world has had its first experience of cancel-culture during a very global and public event.
- Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not attend the opening ceremony even though he was instrumental in bringing the event to his country. He made this decision after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and implemented virus restrictions over Tokyo in an effort to minimise health risks among residents and visitors.
- Only 15 leaders of participating countries are present, or at least were for a bit, and they’re not there to celebrate their athletes’ achievements but are said to mostly be discussing vaccine rollouts.
- Only 85% of Olympic Village residents have been vaccinated. Now that may seem like a lot when compared to the meager statistics of some countries, including perhaps our own, but it is not. If there are any lessons to be learnt from a pandemic, it is that it literally takes one person to sneeze, cough, or breath in the wrong direction. Everyone in the International Olympics Committee have been vaccinated, however, and while this does strengthen their immunity, it does not make them altogether immune.
- Staying on the subject of dread and disease, many athletes already contracted the disease shortly before the Games and have had to skip the event. Teen tennis sensation Coco Gauff is just one of them.
- And then, of course, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the sad and seemingly desperate attempt to avoid infection spread by the use of cardboard beds. Yes, you heard me. I don’t know how good sandwiched recycled paper is for the body of an athlete but it probably won’t take the same toll as a life-threating virus, so I guess there’s that not altogether silver lining, but a rather, grey tarnished one.