I challenge the reader of this article to look seven years into their future and ask what excites you about the year 2020. Maybe by then you hope that clean energy targets have been met, or maybe you have finally graduated from university or if you are a Melbourne Demons fan that by then they would have won more than three games in a season. These aspirations are uncertain, yet five words uttered by outgoing IOC president Jacques Robbe in a conference room in Argentina now create a new vibe of excitement around the year that will usher in the third decade of the 21st century.
“And the Winner is…….. Tokyo.”
For the second time the Olympic flame will burn bright in Asia, igniting hope for a prosperous and success games of the 32nd Olympiad. These prized words triggered shock that was felt by thousands of devoted fans gathered in Komozawa Olympic Park in Tokyo, ecstatic that the biggest sporting festival on earth was yet again returning to the land of the Samaria.
The vote may have seen the Japanese bid emerge as resounding victors; yet the road to success could not have been any bumpier. The fallout from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and frequent earthquakes created a doubt as to athlete and visitors safety alike, yet a plea of the Japanese government was able to quell any concerns the International Olympic Committee may have had in their decision. The final vote was 60-36 over Istanbul, whose bid to drag the Olympics to Turkey, was hampered by their geographical position and connection to the unstable political situation of violence in the Middle East. The Madrid bid failed at the first round of voting, the fledging economic state of Spain making them an unviable option. In the end, the strength of the Japanese economy combined with a nation that already has sufficient stadium infrastructure to make Tokyo both the economically viable and safe option for the IOC. Experience also played a factor, with Tokyo successfully hosting the games back in 1964.
Yet what does this announcement mean for Australians, both prospective athletes and fans alike? The time zone is a large factor, with our two nations separated by a mere hour. So say goodbye to Big Brother and Masterchef, swimming and athletics finals will dominate prime time TV. For sports fans, this means a reprisal of the sleepless nights that consumed the author of this article during the London Olympics. For our athletes, this means no adjusting to time differences and competing in an environment that is familiar to many, with Asia being a frequent training and competition ground for our athletes and outside of a home Olympics, Asia is the next best option for our Aussie athletes.
So what do we know about our Asian neighbours sporting prowess, outside of their soccer team’s ability to score late and agonising goals against our beloved Socceroos? Well, the Japanese women’s soccer team are the current world champions and Olympic silver medallists. Yet the strength of Japanese sport does not lie here, with Japan rising in London to become strong competitors in swimming and boxing. Outside of these traditional sports, Japan is a powerhouse when it comes to combat sports such as wrestling and Judo. Like England, China and Australia before them, they will be hoping that the announcement of home games inspires a new generation of Japanese athletes that provide a strong and dominant showing in Tokyo.
However, the success of these Olympics will be judged more by its performance off the sporting field rather than on it. Tokyo has been chosen for stability, a safe pair of hands that can shy media attention away from rioting protestors or doubts on stadium completion that have plagued the lead up to Rio 2016. With Tokyo, organisations hope that attention will instead turn to the sporting performances that etch chapters into the history books of nations, unite barriers of race, gender, religion and language. In the true spirit of the Olympics, let us hope that sport goes beyond these barriers and brings individuals together to focus on a landscape in which determination, skill and talent thrive and cheating and corruption are non-existent. Time will be Tokyo’s judge, let us hope that it lays down a flawless verdict.