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TOKYO 075


Above The centrepiece venue, Kengo Kuma’s National Stadium,


considerably cheaper than Zaha Hadid’s original design


Top left The Olympic Village under construction, located on the Harumi waterfront


Left The Olympic torch, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka in the shape of a Sakura cherry blossom, and the gold medal, designed by Junichi Kawanishi and made from old mobile phones


Radio 5Live that the Games would be cancelled. ‘It looks unlikely I have to say. If I were sitting in the shoes of the organising committee in Tokyo, I would be making plans for a cancellation.’ And of course, they are, but they will not admit it.


Nobody wants to be the one to sound the defeat – ‘Global plague trumps global sport’ is not a great headline for anyone. Amid a global pandemic, for many people holding the Games at all is unconscionable. For them, it’s time to hit the five-ring pause button and cancel. Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who revived the modern Olympics, referred to ‘the noble spirit of chivalry’ as the foundation for sport and society. To confront the Covid-19 crisis, a hefty dose of selfless chivalry is required.


Te modern Olympics, dating from 1896, has been cancelled only during wartime. In 1940, the Games were supposed to be in Tokyo but were called off because of Japan’s war with China and the Second World War. Te Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil went on as scheduled in 2016 despite the outbreak of the Zika virus.


‘The financial and logistical implications are enormous. The Olympic flame is still flickering, but only just’


Tokyo still wants the Olympics to happen even if the public does not. Te event will still be called Tokyo 2020, portrayed as a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. So, on with the games. Sports writing shifts from hagiography to exposé, confession to fly-on-the-wall observation, storytelling with revealing details, rags-to-riches melodrama, fame and idolisation. But in our search for a hero, the task of meeting the reader’s expectations has become much harder over the last decade. And nowhere more so than at the Olympics. Living legends have been thin on the ground, and the world of sports journalism, written as myth, has become more complicated to produce, with paeans to fading superstars feeding the nostalgia of the sports fan more often than the messy reality of the sporting world today and its art of artifice. Sports journalists operate in the demi- monde of fantasy-reality; their modus vivendi is to write about dreams, heroic achievements, tragic failures, disappointments and so on. Teir job is to write stories. Te epic narrative of conflict is the background, their


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