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Olympics Lesson


The holding of the Tokyo Olympic Games proved to be an enormous act of political will in the face of adverse circumstances. There was no shortage of voices within Japan and outside that feared it could not be done without turning into a super spreader event for Covid-19. After the decision was taken, the nation and the organisers came together to successfully pull it off. Covid cases were kept to the bare minimum, identified early and isolated. Conditions were successfully maintained that ensured the athletes could perform in their respective bubbles. The absence of spectators, the rules requiring participants to head home immediately after their events did take away greatly from the fundamental international coming together the games represent, but these sacrifices were willingly made by all for the common goal.

In the end, not only was the sequence of the Olympics successfully maintained – though a year late – but the entire world was uplifted by the performances of the athletes. Even India, which struggled massively with the second wave just before the event, rose above its troubles to celebrate the achievements of its sportspersons, whose efforts and the sacrifices were doubly enhanced by the challenge.

There is a lesson in it for the rest of the world. In many countries, there is a lot of ongoing protest against the ‘limitations on freedoms’ imposed by Covid restrictions. In the process, they are causing a lot of harm as is evident from the continuously rising cases in the US and Europe. It is a waste of energy and unnecessary, as the answer lies in appropriate management of circumstances. Sadly, these are the very places where vaccinations are in abundant supply and taking place at a rapid pace. If people behave intelligently and in a disciplined manner at the individual level, all the old activities can be resumed in a ‘new normal’.

This has also been experienced in India, where the experiences of the first wave helped quickly curb the depredations of the second. The carefully calibrated ‘curfews’ ensured the virus was prevented from spreading in most states of the country. Now, with the further opening up, it will greatly depend on how the general public behaves whether the problem is fully controlled, or there will be the third wave. People must understand that what they want is only achievable if they can be disciplined like those who organised and participated in the Olympics, not through petulant behaviour that endangers the self and everybody else.