The Olympics demonstrates a celebration of hope amid the ravages of a global pandemic.
THANK God for the Olympics!
The Tokyo Games has been a godsend for many of us who are otherwise sick of reading about numbers. Daily case numbers, vaccination numbers, strong and formidable numbers and the list goes on. These numbers are doing my head in.
But while our leaders are distracted with saving their own skins, rather than saving the country from the ravages of the pandemic, most of us have been glued to our phones and TV screens.
As we continue to be mired in a never-ending lockdown, the Olympic Games has become the perfect antidote to avoid spiralling into depression.
It isn’t only the famous athletes, footballers or swimmers that catch our attention, the country is united in rooting for the 18 Malaysian sportsmen and women who are carrying the flag.
Even people who are not ordinarily sports fans have been glued to their screens whenever a Malaysian is in action.
Yes, we still haven’t gotten that elusive gold medal (and at the time of writing it looks like we’ll have to wait for the next Games for another chance), but there have been enough stand-out performances from the Malaysian contingent to warm the hearts.
Shuttlers Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik may have missed out on the ultimate prize, but their bronze medal in the men’s doubles did bring some much-needed cheer to the nation.
The badminton players have been the country’s only podium finishers thus far but youngster Nur Dhabitah Sabri came mighty close in the women’s 3m springboard, falling just short of the medals.
Her fourth place effort was even more impressive, considering the world class field she competed in. The future looks bright for the diver with a perpetual smile on her face.
“She has been a role model that has inspired other young girls to take up the sport in her country,” said the commentator at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
The commentator was of course referring to our diving queen Pandelela Rinong who was competing in the women’s individual 10m platform – her third Olympics.
Making the finals of her preferred event three times in a row is no mean feat when you consider that the Chinese and Americans have been dominating this sport.
The Olympics has never been short on heartening displays of courage, team spirit and camaraderie among competitors. And there are moments of ecstatic celebrations just as there are moments of bitter disappointment.
National high jumper Lee Hup Wei was aiming to become the country’s first track and field Olympian to reach the final of an athletics event but Hup Wei, who has a personal best of 2.29m, failed in all three attempts at 2.17m and was eliminated.
Overcome by emotions after the event, the 34-year old broke down in front of TV cameras.
His disappointment was so great (he had beaten the odds to even make the Tokyo Games because he had contracted Covid-19 in January), knowing that this was his last Games, that even the TV reporter interviewing him was reduced to tears.
It was in the high jump event that I think the stand-out moment of this Games occurred.
Both Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar were tied after completing a jump of 2.37m but failed to clear the bar at 2.39m in three attempts.
They were told that they could settle it in a jump-off or share the gold.
And the two rivals and friends opted to share the gold medal instead of breaking their tie, encapsulating the true meaning of Olympic sportsmanship.
The Tokyo Olympics will wrap up with men’s water polo final on Sunday. This will be followed by the closing ceremony at 7pm Malaysian time.
There were serious doubts that the Games would even take place – data collected by the International Olympic Committee showed that as of Wednesday, there was a reported 320 Covid-19 cases linked to the Olympics since July 1.
Infection numbers have been climbing for some time, and there has been a state of emergency in place in Tokyo until Aug 31.
Despite all these fears, the Games has gone ahead to demonstrate to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures amid the pandemic.
It has been a tough year that has taken a physical and emotional toll on everyone, but the Olympians competing at the highest level of their sport have sent a signal that the world needs solidarity now.
This Tokyo Olympics 2020 was truly a celebration of hope.
Brian Martin is the managing editor of The Star.