Sheer resilience and sincerity of purpose | By Zaheer Bhatti


Sheer resilience and sincerity of purpose

IT is a unique honour for any country to host nations of the world and stage the greatest sporting event of the Olympics which first took place in Athens, Greece in 1896.

Although the ancient games were staged in Olympia, Greece, from 776 BC through 393 AD, it took 1503 years for the Olympics to return; the man responsible for its rebirth being a Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who presented the idea in 1894.

Japan won the bids for the 2020 Olympic Games several years ago on 7 September 2013, but went through trying times preparing due to the challenge posed by the lethal Covid pandemic which had them defer the historic event to 2021 hoping that the viral disease would abate.

But with time fleeting past and the pandemic instead returning in a 4th wave; what was known as an Indian variant which was spreading rapidly, the Government of Japan which never let up in preparations and had innovatively crafted the Gold silver and Bronze medals from used metals, took a bold plunge due to sheer resilience and sincerity of purpose.

Amid tight SOPs, it staged the event which from the start to its mercurial end, was so enthralling that it looks like a dream.

When Japan unveiled its technologically tailored inaugural ceremony, one had a lurking fear hovering around that the event might barely pass as one going through the motions with around 12 thousand athletes participating in an empty stadium which was meant to support over eighty thousand fans, but my hats off to the innovative Japanese who made the Olympic arena come alive by intelligently bedecking and upholstering seating around the stadium as if filled with spectators.

Added to that, the immaculately prepared drill for each event amid enormous facilities as participants were made completely at home and very well looked after.

Inviting athletic legends such as Sebastian Coe to do the Medal honours, made senior citizens reflect in the past and relive those great moments.

The quality of all sports enhanced the overall impact, and not just the arena but viewers from all over the world with on-camera interjections from back home added to the excitement.

Performances showed that the top mantle of Athletics and Olympics held for long by the US was gradually threatened to be overtaken by other nations catching up fast; the Chinese beaten to second place by just one gold medal and the host nation doubling its tally of Gold medals.

Pakistan represented by a small delegation; most of which proved to be passengers who badly lost out in the initial rounds of their events, there were two names Talha Talib the weightlifter and Arshad Nadeem the javelin thrower who even though did not secure a medal, both ended up in 5th place in their respective events, despite lack of proper back-up and necessary support from the Pakistan Olympic Association.

Sports as all other disciplines of life are becoming competitive not just due to sheer talent but in view of the techniques and technology being increasingly applied to enhance their skills.

Even myself as a keen layman watching both these nature-gifted athletes compete, noticed that with just a little more attention at home and even during the games, both of them could have been on the podium.

Courageous Talha Talib, an Asian and Commonwealth games medallist who at one time led the competitors list at the Tokyo Olympics, suffered an unfortunate black-out and concussion during one of his attempts but did not give up and lifted 170 KGs in his last attempt aggregating 320 Kg, as he was overtaken by others and missed a medal by just 2 KGs.

Previously, a 62 Kg category competitor, he was this time competing in the 67 KG category with his own weight barely 62 KGs and the other competitors mostly 65/66.

His trainers ought to have ensured while preparing for the games that with an extra pound of flesh and energy, Talha whose technique is perfect, could have been on the winning podium.

As for Arshad Nadeem, one noticed that compared to other competitors, he with a heavier built and longer strides in the run up, released the Javelin at least a yard earlier to save crossing the fouling line; applying breaks while running, whereas other competitors particularly the eventual Gold medalist Neeraj Chopra with a lesser but sturdy frame were more sprightly in their smaller run up strides gaining momentum, and released the javelin a yard later followed by a deliberate fall on all fours to prevent crossing the red line.

That technique made all the difference; of which Pakistani trainers and Arshad himself should have been cognizant.

There was such excitement which had sunk into the TV and social media viewers much less the spectators who wished the Olympics would never end.

But as all good things do, the closing ceremony presented another colossal feast for the viewer appetite; some athletes trying their hand at the Japanese Summer Festival dance Bon-Odori; outstanding performance of the Band and acrobatics of a multitude of Japanese participants showcasing glimpses of Japanese Culture with videos of traditional dances and what the streets of Tokyo would have been like had the sportsmen walked the streets of Harajuku in non-Covid Games; as the show concluded with live Tokyo Ondo at the end.

A message to the human fraternity of the fruits of togetherness and competition rather than confrontation and rancour was writ large in the games, as competitors from warring nations hugged and embraced each other.

The great feeling was expressed among others by Wang XU of China who extracted ‘hope’ for humanity from the staging of the Olympics.

Learning of Indian Neeraj Chopra’s admiration of Arshad Nadeem’s Pakistani attire and his wish to see him on the podium for the greater glory of Asia, if anything, is a message to his country’s leadership to learn from its subjects the lesson of togetherness and co-existence rather than seek to frame Pakistan in terrorism of which it was itself guilty, besides its failed attempt at sports terrorism; requiring ICC not to recognize the Kashmir Premier League of cricket in Azad Kashmir and blackmailing international players not to participate in it.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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