about 2 years ago
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Maybe under normal circumstances, the closing ceremony of an Olympics for non-sports people like us would have been just an event. But this time around, it was very poignant, almost an emotional experience – a feeling of as though something which made us feel so good was coming to an end. The ritual of excitedly checking the highlights, tracking “India” events; it had become a sort of ‘escapism’ from the pandemic, the wishy-washy markets and the dirty politics.

This time around, passions were running high’; we were watching the events with the same or even more passion than what we reserve for cricket. It was a wonderful to have other sports to cheer for than only cricket. Hockey was once again back in the focus though it remains a task to explain to the younger generation why it is still our national game.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, summed it up so aptly, “In these difficult times, you gave the world the most precious of gifts: hope. For the first time since the pandemic began, the entire world came together, sport returned to center stage, billions of people around the globe were united by emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration.” Though the eerily empty stadiums and the masks, winners putting on their medals themselves- all reminded us of the virus lurking around; the ultimate winner was our human spirit.

The icing on the cake was of course our 23-year old Neeraj Chopra winning us the gold. Hearing our anthem resonate in the Japanese podium gave one goosebumps; standing up in respect for the anthem in our homes came so naturally in that moment.

It is these athletes who are our true heroes right now – they have provided inspiration to millions of youngsters, giving them hope that you can become great and bring pride to the nation via sports. Parents will probably look beyond cricket and its money earning capacity to sports as a great career option. Javelin, boxing, shooting, badminton, weight-lifting, hockey – all these games have come to the fore. Maybe in a few years from now, India will have athletes running and winning the 100mts and even a marathon.

From a scenario of whether it was even morally right to host a sporting event while the world battles a pandemic, we are now looking back with a lot of fond memories. What we think now is so different from when the Games began – such world unifying events are required, especially when we all live in troubled times. The getting together of the best athletes in the world, looking beyond race and color is was so reassuring.

Japan did the right thing by pushing ahead with the Olympics – we all needed these Games to feel hope, to see beyond Netflix and Prime, track better things on social media, more importantly, to know there is beautiful, cohesive world that only sports can bring about. Yes, these Games was what the world needed.

The real winner – my 6-year-old niece saying that she wants to become a javelin thrower – a sport and a new choice she was not even aware of last week. This is how inspiration comes and may this torch lit by our Indian athletes remain ignited and grow in intensity.

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