Like a lot of things, the 2020 Olympics were cancelled due to COVID. This is a good thing, because they now have time to reassess that lame-ass motto. “United by Emotions” could become “Stalked by Death” or something. Rescheduled to start 23 July 2021, the mirage of a vaccine has prompted IOC Vice President John Coates to defiantly state that the Games will proceed ‘with or without COVID‘ by which I’m pretty sure he means ‘with‘ because we’ll be in the jaws of this menace well into 2021. So, what to expect in Tokyo?

Stiff competition aside, if social distancing remains the rule, then the opening ceremony will be a fizzer. Without densely-packed performers, the mosaics of Moscow would have looked like chipped graffiti, and instead of swarming Mary Poppinses in London we would have had somebody’s demented aunt stumbling about. The thundering cavalry of Sydney, replaced by a jolly swagman looking for stray jumbucks. And how to create spectacle if there are no spectators? Will anyone pay ¥300,000 ($3884 AUD / $2883 USD) to sit in a half-filled stadium?

Of course, some things won’t change. Japan can easily replicate China’s Lin Miaoke by using a cute kid to lip-sync the national anthem while the real singer (in China’s case, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi) is kept put of sight. They could barbecue a flock of ‘peace doves’ like the South Koreans did in 1988 by failing to stop the freshly-released birds from landing on the Olympic cauldron before they lit it. Japan could even coax ‘The Great Muta’ out of retirement to ‘Asian mist’ the Olympic cauldron before ‘moonsaulting’ off the podium; it would be hardly less nerve-wracking than watching Muhammad Ali almost-not light the Atlanta flame in ’96.

But what must change is the line-up of Olympic sports. All those close-contact events that involve exchanging bodily fluids (boxing, wrestling, the martial arts, beach volleyball) must go. Skateboarding should never have been an Olympic sport, so that can go too. Ditto all the boring horse events. Reduce swimming and cycling down to a couple of laps of the pool, that stuff kills me. Then we can all sit back and watch some fat bloke from Bulgaria suffer an explosive prolapse while lifting 500kg of metal over his head, or the women’s synchronized divers costume malfunction, or whatever it is those pinch-nosed ladies are doing in the pool.

In my effort to become more ‘interested in sport’ I’m going to make an effort this time. I have a faint interest in the athletics, and could conceivably watch the fencing (because I enjoyed pirate movies when I was a kid). There’s something about Greco-Roman wrestling that makes my anus spasm in a not-homophobic manner, so that’s a no. I’m laughing too hard at the sheer stupidity of trampolining, so that’s also a no. And handball WTF. But I can definitely make time to watch the archery. Not sure what it is, but there’s something about archery…

So, track and field, fencing and archery. That ought to be enough. It will arm me with material for the segues needed to avoid difficult questions at work. For example, when someone announces he’s had the end of his nob carved off and is now Jewish (hence observes Shabbat and now can’t work weekends) I’ll flip to how much Human Growth Hormone the Chinese swimmer Sun Yang must have smashed since the World Champs in Gwangju. When somebody announces their gender-fluidity and demands a private bathroom, I can deflect to “So how good was our autistic, I mean artistic swimming team!”

That’s pretty autistic, I mean artistic. In truth, maybe I’m starting to see some utility in sport. It levels the ground and facilitates small talk between guys who actually don’t have anything in common, and don’t give a shit about each other. Because there are only two options in male company. You either open up about stuff that matters and maybe learn to tolerate the opinions of others. Or you don’t, and talk sport. In the absence of sport, it quickly devolves to beating each other with clubs. A nine-iron, perhaps! Because golf is also an Olympic sport. Hmm, I supposed I could add golf to the viewing list…

In any case, sometime soon they’ll reignite the Olympic Flame in Greece, and a series of runners will carry it across the world to Japan. Representing the fire that Prometheus stole from the Greek gods to give to man, I wonder how the Japanese will choose to commemorate the moment. By lighting a funeral pyre perhaps, instead of a cauldron. But that fire is already burning. I may resist my lack of interest and tune in to see how the clever Nippon put their stamp on the XXXII Olympic Games, but also how they do it in defiance of the plague.

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