How Tokyo 2020 Excelled in Delivering the Olympic Values
Delayed by a year and observed in unprecedented circumstances, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games will go down in history. The Games were shrouded in controversy, as many believed they should never have taken place. Not to mention that the team who finished 5th overall comprised a squad who were not able to sport their home country’s name, flag or anthem. This Olympics showed, as emphatically as ever, that sport is inextricably linked to society as we know it.
Since the first Summer Modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, the Olympic Movement’s primary goal has been to help contribute to a better world. It has sought to achieve this through promoting Olympism and its core values; Excellence, Friendship and Respect.
The Tokyo Games will be forever remembered as a unique spectacle that epitomised these three pillars of Olympism.
As expected, viewers from around the globe were treated to an abundance of world class sport, as world records were smashed and athletes pushed themselves to new limits.
Team GB’s Charlotte Worthington’s BMX Freestyle history-making, Norway’s Karsten Warholm’s 400m hurdle heroics, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah’s double double and Tom Daley’s overdue Olympic gold were amongst the highlights.
But it was also a Games of firsts; as skateboarding, surfing, karate and sport climbing all made their debut appearances at the Games. These events represented a venture into progressive Excellence, reflective of the modern world, as skateboarding especially captured attention, through its young and skillful competitors.
There were numerous occasions which showed that in today’s sporting climate, more than ever, success is often the product of so much more than just an athlete’s performance on the day, emphasising the importance of support and compassion.
The winner of the men’s 110m hurdles, Hansle Parchment, was only able to compete due to an act of kindness from a stranger, who paid for his taxi after he boarded a bus that took him to the wrong arena.
Team GB’s Beth Shriever, who won a BMX gold, was only able to compete by crowdfunding £50,000, largely from strangers, in order to make the Games, after UK Sport made the decision to only fund male riders in Tokyo.
However, the Olympic spirit was perhaps most epitomised in a moment of ultimate compassion and sportsmanship, which saw Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim share the men’s high jump gold medal, in arguably one of the most touching sporting scenes of all time.
Perhaps the most important of the three values, it was Respect that truly shone through in Tokyo.
This was the first Games in which a transgender athlete was able to compete, as New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard became the first athlete to take part at an Olympic Games in a different gender category to that assigned at birth.
Additionally, the manner in which the world responded to USA’s star gymnast, Simone Biles, withdrawing from five of her six events, in order to take leave for mental health reasons, showed how the Olympics transcends sport itself. One of the faces of the Games, Biles, remained with her team in a supportive role, before returning to the mat to claim a bronze in the balance beam final, citing the respect and acceptance she’d received from people around the globe as a reason for her success.
Tokyo 2020 was also the first Olympics that saw mixed gender events, offering a new dynamic to age-old race formats and providing exceptional entertainment.
Responding to the movement of today’s society, these Games showed time and time again how Olympism does not shy away from the most contemporary issues faced by the modern world. As a result, sport has never felt so relevant.