With apologies to those reading who have no time for the inadvertent summer of pandemic-delayed sport we’ve ended up with on television this year and just want their regular television schedules back, we’re not done yet.
With Euro 2020 and Wimbledon both out of the way, next up it was the turn of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (across the BBC) to make their year-late appearance.
The festivities began a week past Friday with the traditional Opening Ceremony, although really the Olympics kicked off several weeks beforehand, with the medal placings in the ‘Predictions of Doom in the Media’ event as hotly-contested as ever. Regular Olympics viewers may recall these from the weeks before (with apologies in advance for the sarcasm), that notable organisational and ratings failure, the London 2012 Olympics.
While the global pandemic, of course, is a greater and more lethal barrier to large events taking place than any faced by an Olympics in over 70 years, a spectator-free event hardly seemed beyond the pale after Euro 2020’s bonanza of busy and packed-full stands we’d all witnessed in the preceding months.
As ever, the news vacuum was filled the moment the opening ceremony began, despite the Japanese actor and creative director of the ceremony Kentaro Kobayashi resigning in the days prior, due to jokes he’d made years ago about the Holocaust (the third creative director of the ceremony, he was only the second to resign in disgrace). Yet what he created stood as a subtle but at times really stunning evocation, not just of the promise of the Games, but of all that had gone before.
Amid the fireworks, light shows and poignant, distanced dances which spoke of mortality, care and connection, the sight of Japanese boxer and nurse Arisa Tsubata peddling furiously on a lone exercise bike in the middle of an empty arena was fiercely poignant. With qualifiers for her event cancelled, she missed the cut for it on a mathematical technicality; here, she was gifted an alternative place in Tokyo 2020 history.
Those who remember the Japan/South Korea World Cup in 2002 will already know the late night / early morning viewing schedule required to enjoy as much as possible live from a third of the way around the world. Even with all events done by lunchtime, however, an iPlayer catch-up revealed moments of heart-stopping emotion and humanity, from the relentless power of Flora Duffy and Georgia Taylor-Brown in the women’s triathlon, to the withdrawal of Simone Biles from the gymnastics events for the sake of her own mental health – a different kind of courage.
Just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t had enough sport, meanwhile, and who can’t wait a few hours for the football season to begin, we recommend you catch up with the second series of Ted Lasso, which is a couple of episodes in on Apple+ TV.
The show stars Jason Sudeikis as the breezy, homespun American football coach recruited to manage the fictional English club AFC Richmond by owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), whose initial plan was to ruin the club using her divorce settlement from her ex-husband. It comes across like Jerry Maguire meets Footballers’ Wives with a thick vein of wry, Motherland-style humour, and is it least as believable as most other fictional football stories.