The Tokyo Summer Olympics have almost come to an end, and while the sporting events have been as thrilling as ever, the entire experience has been somewhat anticlimactic, from the lack of spectators in the stands to the fact that the event is still referred to everywhere as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I don’t know about you, but for much of the last 16 months or so it’s often been challenging to remember what day of the week it is, much less what month; hearing continued references to the 2020 Summer Games has sometimes made me feel as if I’m watching a very elaborate remake of Groundhog Day.
That’s one of the reasons I was going to say the Games have come to a merciful end, because while the athletes have given it their all, and I’m happy for everyone who got a medal or set a personal best, it’s all seemed somewhat lacklustre, like the warm-up to the proper Olympics. I understand that rather than sticking around to enjoy the atmosphere and cheer on their compatriots, athletes are expected to head home within 24 hours of their events being over, which is going to make for an underpopulated (and underwhelming) closing ceremony.
Despite the 16-hour time difference between here and Tokyo I’ve been able to watch a fair few events live and at a reasonable hour. The one exception was the women’s soccer match between Canada and the U.S., the winner of which would head to the gold medal match. It started at 1 a.m. our time and ended at 3 a.m., and I told myself that there was no way I would stay up that late, I’d find out in the morning who had won.
But then it was 12:30 a.m., and I got caught up watching track and field, and before I knew it the pre-game commentary was on. “I’ll just watch a few minutes and then head to bed,” I said to Jack the cat, who gave me that “Oh, sure you will” look cats are so good at. Then it was half-time, and by the time I’d topped up the cats’ water bowl and food dishes, and done my teeth, and a few other odds and ends, the match was back on, and then Canada scored to lead 1–0, and I simply had to watch the rest, and … suffice it to say that 3 a.m. came around way faster than I anticipated (with a win for Canada, thank goodness).
Against the backdrop of the Tokyo Games comes talk of Vancouver possibly bidding on the 2030 Winter Games. “Reignite the passion!” is the catchphrase, and there are already promises that a second Vancouver Games would be able to buck the trend of Olympics that go massively over budget, by virtue of the fact that a) Winter Games are much less expensive to stage than their summer counterparts and b) most of the infrastructure is still there, and available, from 2010. (No word about what it would cost to truck in snow — again — to the North Shore mountains; everyone is keeping discreetly silent about that.)
There is also some speculation that since so few cities are now willing to bid on the Games — given the fact that Olympics are outrageously expensive to stage, with the host country shouldering all the cost and the International Olympic Committee reaping all the profits — a city like Vancouver, which has already held a successful Olympics, might be able to get a better deal from the IOC. That’s a mighty big “might”, and I’d also like to see what (if any) tangible benefits would be proposed for places not in the immediate orbit of Vancouver/Whistler.
In the meantime, there are still a couple more days of Olympics to go, including the women’s soccer gold medal match on Aug. 5, which starts at the much more sensible time of 7 p.m. here in Ashcroft.* At least this time I’ll be able to cheer the team on without fear of waking anybody, and Jack can look at me any way he wants to.
*Edited to add that after this column was written, the women’s gold medal match was shifted to 5 a.m. Pacific time on Aug. 6 — 9 p.m. Tokyo time — so that the match would not be played in the blistering midday heat. The best laid plans …