First Olympics minus spectators

By Al S. Mendoza


(My deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Raffy Baraan, one of the most sincere sons of Pangasinan.  Upon my suggestion, Raffy fathered the Pangasinan Literary Awards.  Rest in peace, my friend.  You will be missed.)

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I’M writing this on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, giddy over its fate amid noisy calls from 83 percent of Japan’s population for it to be canceled.

Did the Games’ July 23 opening ceremony push through?

If yes, which isn’t far-fetched, then officials ignored the impact of several Olympics personnel getting infected (79 as of last count), reportedly including three athletes.

If yes, thrown by the wayside was the fact that Japan is still presently in its fourth state of national emergency due to successive surges of virus issues.

Surely, the infected athletes can no longer possibly participate, their years of training and preparation painfully, sadly, going down the drain.

The Olympics blasting off amid fear and anxiety is proof once more of Japan’s long-standing stubbornness, an infamous trait that was first seen when the country unleashed its aggression for hegemony in World War II despite its imperial army’s inferior strength against the allied forces.

Japan can always seek refuge in the fact that Thomas Bach, the feisty president of the International Olympic Committee, had stood his ground and given the green light for the Olympics to proceed.

Why the World Health Organization did not put its foot forward as to demand a stop to the Games from proceeding is also a cause of serious concern.

What’s happening to the world, general?

For the first time since we first sent runner David Nepomuceno of Albay as our lone entry in the 1924 Paris Olympics, we are now supposed to win our first ever Olympic gold in Tokyo.

But more than hoping that it would finally happen, I most fervently pray that the Summer Olympics lasting up to August 8—followed by the Paralympics Aug. 24-Sept. 5—will not become a super spreader of COVID-19 resulting in catastrophic proportions.  God have mercy.

The pandemic-postponed Olympics has cost Japan almost $6 billion already from infrastructure spending, promotional billings and television/commercial contracts.

Expenses will be impossibly wholly recovered, even as sponsorships had been speedily forged right after Tokyo won the hosting rights 12 years ago—after holding it last in 1964.

Toyota alone immediately pledged $1 billion, but in a move to show empathy to the Japanese people, the world’s No. 1 automaker has withdrawn all its advertising ads during the duration of the Games.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow but knowing Toyota’s blueprint, it is not always money that comes first and will always be willing to bite the bullet whenever a calamity strikes.

I was in Tokyo in 2019 and I visited the Main Stadium of 65,000 people built at a staggering $1.5 billion.  State-of-the-art all the way.

It will now be empty for the next two weeks as the Olympics has banned spectators, the cheering stands transformed into mere mute witnesses to some 11,000 athletes performing only in front of cameras and television crews.  A first in Olympics history.

Welcome to the Silent Olympics.

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