July 17, 2021
The most controversial Games in 40 years are going ahead despite fierce opposition and somehow could still draw us in
Boom or bust: can troubled Tokyo Olympics sparkle once the flame is lit?
Almost every Olympic Games in the modern era has followed a story arc so precise it could have been matching a metronome. Joy when a bid succeeds. Years of fears – over spiralling costs, mass apathy, viruses or terrorism. But then, as the torchbearer climbs the steps at the end of the opening ceremony, there is usually a striking metamorphosis. Suddenly the negativity is softened or suppressed. The action takes over. And, for the next 17 days, billions are entranced by the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.
It is surely asking too much for history to repeat itself when it comes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But it may at least rhyme. These Games are undoubtedly the most controversial since Moscow 1980, when the United States led a mass boycott in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. How could they not be when, after being postponed a year because of the pandemic, they will take place during a state of emergency in Tokyo, in front of no fans, and in the teeth of fierce opposition from locals?
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