Olympic flame offers hope, especially at this timeFriday, March 26, 2021
It's testament to these strange times that the Olympic torch relay, for so long a symbol of joy and optimism, began yesterday in Japan with sadness and uncertainty as dominant themes.
Postponed from last year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic — which has now killed in excess of 2.7 million people globally — the Tokyo Olympics is set for July/August.
It is reportedly opposed by the majority of the Japanese people, but that country's Government remains committed and is set to spend more than US$15 billion to ensure its success.
One wire service report of yesterday's start of the torch run tells us of a sneering protester who declared: “You must be joking… Everyone knows we can't have the Olympics.”
We can't but admire the determination of those who insist that making the Olympic Games happen can redound to the greater glory of Japan and, ultimately, all humanity in this time of global crisis.
At yesterday's ceremony — closed to spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions — Tokyo 2020 President Ms Seiko Hashimoto likened the lighting of the Olympic torch to the spring flowering of Japan's world-famous cherry blossoms.
“The small flame did not lose hope and, just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day,” she said.
Likewise, Jamaican sportsmen and women, their support staff, and sports lovers must not lose hope despite the difficulties which are undeniably extreme.
The partial lockdowns for the next three weekends in Jamaica, brought on by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths mean the sporting fraternity — like every other sector — is uncertain of the future.
Optimism, when the Government recently allowed athletic development meets to take place up to last weekend, dimmed this week with news that permission had been withdrawn for scheduled meets, including the Eastern Athletic Championships for high schools.
Oddly enough, that news broke even as Minister of Local Government Mr Desmond McKenzie announced that Government had authorised premier league football clubs to resume training.
Whether the popular high schools' boys' and girls' championships will be held, and what sort of local preparation elite athletes will get ahead of the Olympics are all up in the air.
Yet the authorities must find a way forward.
As the great Olympian Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce said last weekend after winning her 200-metre event at the National Stadium, “Competition is essential… If you are training for months you would want to see where you're at...”
And, given the depression brought on by COVID-19, the Government must consider the positive effect of sport once it can take place in accordance with required protocols.
It's a point underlined by president of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Mr Keith Wellington recently as he urged school leaders and coaches preparing for Champs to think bigger than just winning.
“We have taken a position at ISSA that Champs this year is much bigger than ISSA … or any individual school or athlete… this is more than it has ever been, a national event… not just in the sense that it is the biggest sporting event in the country, but [because of] the impact [it] is likely to have… on the national psyche,” said Mr Wellington.
That's a sentiment which speaks true for all sport in this most painful of times.
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