At a massive cost
Finally, after a year of postponement, and so many hiccups, the Tokyo Olympics is off to a start — giving 11,500 athletes a platform to showcase their talent and stamina before the world. A total of 339 medals are on offer across 33 sports to be held at 42 venues. It is also an opportunity for Japan to claim to the world that it stands tall despite a series of devastating catastrophe it has braced over the past decade; perhaps the greatest threat — COVID-19 pandemic — still taking a heavy toll in the country. But this opportunity comes at a great cost. As per the official figures, Japan has spent more than USD 15.4 billion on the Tokyo Olympics so far — more than half of which comes from taxpayers' money. Japan would have to forgo this massive investment had the Games not been held. International Olympic Committee has the sole right for the cancellation of Games. Any initiative from Japan in this direction would mean that it would have to incur a great financial loss. Japan had little option left than to go ahead with the Games. The human cost involved in the conduction of games may even outweigh the financial costs. The COVID-19 situation is still in a sorry state of affairs in the country. Domestic spectators are banned from nearly all venues in the wake of the pandemic. Japan has played a big gamble and it remains to be seen how it fares for the country. Despite the sophisticated preparations put in place by Japan, more than 75 positive cases have been reported so far. This scenario puts a blanket of uncertainty over the completion of the Games. IOC president Thomas Bach has said that above 80 per cent of the people staying in the athletes' village will be vaccinated by July 23. In comparison, the overall vaccination in Japan has been somewhere close to 20 per cent. Despite the vaccination effort in the athletes' village, and overall safety arrangements, the possibility of cancellation of the Games has not been ruled out. The conduction of the Olympics is quite a different phenomenon when compared to the organising of IPL, cricket tournaments, Euro Cup etc. — solely because of the scale and the diversity of participants involved in the Games. A great challenge lies ahead of Japan; it remains to be seen how Japan tackles it. A hidden rivalry with China also seems to be in place here. After successfully showing its prowess by holding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China is all set to hold Winter Olympics next year. But more than the prowess of any country, it is the prevailing conditions that matter the most. The Covid situation in Japan is not very encouraging at this juncture. Nevertheless, since the start has been made, there has to be no looking back anymore. The path is to go ahead in the best possible way. Despite the paramount challenges faced by the country, it has shown a remarkable gesture by vowing to limit carbon emissions to 2.93 million tonnes this Olympics, compared with the 3.3 million tonnes during London Olympics 2012. Coming to the participation of India, as the Games progress, the people in our country have high hopes from the Indian contingent of 126 athletes. We should hope for improvement in the efforts of our athletes and celebrate the same, at the same time, praying for their safety. It is true that we have been lagging far behind on medal tally all through the history of Olympics, but there has been a considerable improvement over the past two decades in the Olympics and other games. Preparing a country for such a highly competitive event is a time-taking and a rigorous task. What is good for us is that we are headed in the right direction. At present, we have thirty athletes among the top ten in their respective sports. It is also well-known that our improving performance is limited to set of sports like archery, wrestling, shooting, boxing etc. But this range is only going to expand over the coming events. This is not to procrastinate or be overly optimistic. Required efforts have to be made for improvements, and criticism should always be welcome, but it has to be more on grounds of efforts than on medal count. Improvement is a continuous process. Let's celebrate every moment of it. Olympic Games represent high values of the joy of effort, fair play, respect for others; pursuit of excellence; and balance between body, will and mind — needed more at the present time than ever before. Let us hope and pray that Japan finds a suitable completion to the start it has made.