My condolences to any elite athletes who aspired to but aren’t going to compete at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
There is for you a backhanded consolation, a silver lining: These Olympics are not going to be particularly enjoyable for the participants.
Japan is under tight COVID restrictions, having experienced an Indian Summer of the pandemic and lockdowns that most other nations are finally emerging from. They are not allowing unauthorized visitors, and they are not allowing spectators at any major Olympic events.
Athletes will compete in glorified workouts, closed-door contests, posing as Olympic events. No fans will be present. It will be the complete opposite experience of what we grew up watching on television.
And that never minds the airtight, restricted experience the athletes will have visiting the country of Japan, which will more closely resemble a visit to nearby North Korea. Athletes will arrive and immediately be shuffled to the Olympic Village, where they will not be allowed to travel anywhere except to their competition venue to work out or compete, and back. No tourism, no ramen, no checking out the sights of anything beyond the view outside their dorm window, and maybe the swimming pool at the hotel… if that’s allowed (which it might not be). And, by the way, it’s extraordinarily expensive to fly to Japan from most of the world on 3-4 weeks notice, let alone to transport any food or equipment you will need.
That’s a crappy experience, unless the athlete in question is just 100% business minded, and sees this as an important business trip. That’s basically just like another Diamond League race. How is that a special experience? In name only? If this were not the Olympics, what would be so great about this experience?
Look, it’s an accomplishment for the athletes who are attending, regardless of the context of what they’re (probably unknowingly) walking into. A medal at the Olympics is still an Olympic medal, should any of them win.
It just won’t be much of a positive experience beyond that. This is a mandatory exercise coerced by an IOC insistent on having an Olympic games rather than cancelling them outright or yet again deferring them. It’s a vast waste of Japanese resources on lavish multi-billion dollar venues (or I suppose in this case multi-trillion yen venues) that no fans will get to experience before they’re dismanted, repurposed, or abandoned.
If you’re missing out as an elite athlete, don’t feel too bad. It’s an Olympic experience in name only. Hopefully Paris 2024 will return closer to Olympic normalcy (and though it’s a subject I need to discuss in greater detail later, don’t think you’ll be too old. Times have changed, and athletes can thrive at the elite level later in life without doping).
I hope the athletes who worked hard to earn the trip and get to go have fun competing, even if the rest of the Tokyo 2021 experience won’t be nearly as much fun.