That ineffable effulgence of endeavor, the Olympics, concluded this week. Held a year later because of Covid 19, the label was still Tokyo 2020 while July 23 – August 8, 2021 became the rain date — an American expression for the postponement of a sports event through bad weather.
An athlete has one, possibly two, and rarely three chances to participate in the Olympics for three times would span twelve years. Few are able to compete at the highest levels that long, although some sports might be less demanding.
Judging can have its own perils or even be considered arbitrary. The Russians were appalled that an Israeli woman gymnast topped their own adorable turn sisters to win the floor exercise gold, and requested an inquiry but the judges reaffirmed their decision.
If one marvels at the muscle definition in the modern athlete, it is an open secret: steroids. That doesn’t mean every athlete is on steroids but look at the evidence. The Russians are banned for mandated doping, yet are still competing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). Getting caught becomes a matter of someone spilling the beans for whatever reason. Sometimes they have left for another country and might want to start afresh and so on. Publicity can be a draw of course.
So, if some are using steroids (sometimes in a new form that is harder to detect), and others might eat lots of steak to build themselves up. Thus a new unofficial medal table that does not just list the countries by the number of medals one but allows for per capita income because, as in most things, poor countries are at a dietary and training disadvantage. There is also the preponderance of wealthy countries in expensive sports like show jumping where the rider’s boots alone could cost the annual income of an average Indian.
Only a few in the world have the capacity physically and mentally to be an Olympic athlete, and countries with high populations have a larger pool. China is one example. But the talented have to be identified and trained and this is where China is successful and India not. It lacks the spotters, the sports facilities in schools and an athletics culture. Indian boys would rather be playing cricket, a game at which India excels.
Well, the next Olympiad is in Paris, the city of lights, of wide boulevards and the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the latter for the first time, I remember remarking to my school-friend- companion, “But it’s exactly like its pictures.” He looked at me, missing the point, “What the hell did you expect?” Such that we have read about, dreamed about and wondered about, we do expect more … at least at the age of nineteen.
So it is with the Olympics.