Every four years I am always amazed at how emotional I get watching the Olympics.
It’s not like I have any practical experience of what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. While we’re told about the hours, the effort, the dedication, and the physical and mental fortitude required from athletes to deal with the highs and lows of competing, not many of us, let’s be honest, can really understand, from the comfort of our couches, what it really takes.
And yet, while watching Emma Twigg win gold on Friday afternoon, the first in a series of three extraordinary medal winning rowing races, tears came to my eyes.
You didn’t need to be a body language expert to see the weight of 2 decades of hard work, persistence and disappointment just melt away. The sense of joy, relief, and maybe a little bit of disbelief, was obvious.
I’ve been torn about the Olympics taking place, and I’ve watched with dread the number of Coronavirus cases in Japan grow but, as I knew I would, I’ve loved all the action this week.
The Olympics is when unfamiliar names become household names. We yell at the television knowing only the neighbours can hear us, and we relish in the successes and commiserate the near misses. We soak up the backstories, the sportsmanship, and yes, shed a few more tears. How could you not when watching bronze medal winning triathlete Hayden Wilde break down as he dedicated the race to his late father?
As a family, we will talk for years to come about some of the moments we have shared together over the last week.
The Olympics always spark conversations about the excess, corruption and exploitation of the IOC and, no matter what is done about doping, questions about how clean the Olympics are will likely never fade.
It’s quite possible the Olympics are too broken to fix - but for those who believe the Olympics is the pinnacle for most sports we can’t quite accept it.
These Olympics have also sparked positive new conversations about the toll of being an elite athlete and the pressure placed on big names to carry the show. It turns out that even the best of the best have a mental limit, and like everybody else the athletes should be able to decide whether pushing through is worth it. I wish Simone Biles well.
You only had to watch our women’s 7’s team last night to understand the significance of the Olympics. The Black Ferns 7’s have won it all: six of eight Rugby World Sevens Series titles, two of three Rugby Sevens World Cups and Commonwealth Games gold. After silver in Rio, all the Black Ferns have been thinking about is bringing home gold. And last night, after a few days of tough games, and excellent post-match interviews, they got the job done.
If you have chosen not to watch these Olympics from a moral perspective then good on you. But the reality is that whether I watch or not isn’t going to influence the impact of Covid 19 on the Japanese people.
The humanity, drama and awe inspiring performances of the last week pull us together as we share in the success and the heartbreak and for a brief moment we feel almost as if we’re part of the team - a team of 5 million.