Tokyo: Never has been the empty feeling more palpable than when an unusual Olympics ended on Sunday -- in front of tens of thousands of vacant seats.
A mindless extravaganza had played itself out: Flags were hoisted and lowered, national anthems resounded in concrete structures, speeches were delivered, and the flame was doused as if everything was right with the Olympic movement and the world.
Nothing could be further from truth: Tokyo was a lost Olympics, in a way, writes The New York Times. Yet, athletes performed, often at their best, and records and hearts were broken, testing human grit and endurance.
Agencies add: India’s super seven gave the country its most successful Games in history – a booty of seven medals, one gold, two silvers and four bronzes. In a country where the national self-esteem often hangs by a slender thread, each medal carries with it a narrative of human tenacity and persistence. Neeraj Chopra didn’t compete on the international stage for 17 months, between January 2020 and June 2021. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu went without competition from December 2019 to April 2021. PV Sindhu featured in five tournaments from March 2020 till the start of the Olympic Games.
During the same period, Lovlina Borgohain used the money she received as part of her Arjuna Award, the second-highest state honour for Indian sportspersons – for the treatment of her mother’s kidney ailment.
While Ravi Kumar Dahiya grappled on the mats in Tokyo, the local administration in his village in Haryana had to make special arrangements to ensure his parents could tune into the action without any electricity cuts.
Bajrang Punia had to forfeit a match a month ago after injuring his right knee, which would remain strapped through most of his contests in Tokyo.
The Indian men’s hockey team had spent most of the last one and a half years locked down at a national training facility in Bengaluru. In the six months leading up to the Tokyo Games, they had spent a total of four days at their respective homes.
In the best of times, it takes the struggle of a lifetime to deliver the holy grail of an Olympic medal. As India reeled under the disastrous first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the worst of times to exist, leave alone train for sporting glory.
And yet, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 conclude as the most successful in India’s 120-year history of competition.
These seven champions have travelled far and wide to make that happen.
AP REPORTS: While Tokyo is handing off the Summer Games baton to Paris for 2024, the delay has effectively crammed two Olympics together. The next Winter Games convenes in just six months in another major Asian metropolis, Beijing, Japan's rival in East Asia and home to a much more an authoritarian government that is expected to administer its Games in a more draconian and restrictive way, virus or no virus.
In Paris on Sunday, people gathered in a fan zone near the Eiffel Tower, waving small French flags. The scene was a contrast to Tokyo, where fans have occasionally been able to sneak peeks at events, but for the most part haven't been able to attend or gather in big crowds to cheer athletes.
In the meantime, the program for Tokyo's closing ceremony, outlining its “Worlds We Share” theme, captured the effect of the pandemic and the virtual worlds and separation anxiety to which it has given birth.
"We are in a new normal, and this edition of the Games were a different affair," it said. “Even if we cannot be together, we can share the same moment. And that is something that we will never forget."
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