Conducting events like the Olympics, which comes once in four years in a pandemic, is the most painstaking task. It requires an immense amount of planning, human resources, technical resources and a lot of other factors, which would have been relatively easier to acquire under normal circumstances. The organizers of Tokyo 2020 had to take immense measures to ensure the safety of the athletes and support staff. Keeping this in mind, it created a bubble type environment for the athletes that sealed them from outside contact.
This move prompted stars like Australian Elizabeth Cambagge to drop out of contention as they struggled to choose between playing in the bubble away from their families and friends or dropping out and staying at home. WNBA star Cambagge keyed in on the fact that she had to stay away from her support system as the reason she did not want to participate in the Olympics despite the immense pride and joy she takes in representing her country.
Preparing for the Olympics even under normal circumstances is no mean feat. The difficulty level is more profound during trying times such as the pandemic. Athletes had to be more creative and required more assistance to fulfil their Olympic dreams. Home setups were made so that the athlete did not lose a step physically or mentally while being in quarantine. Combine that with the mental agony and suffering that comes with witnessing or hearing about your morbid fears coming true, and you have the recipe for a mental breakdown. Fighting against gruelling physical obstacles is not new for star athletes, but fighting mental battles without your support system by your side in the middle of a pandemic takes a different level of sacrifice and pain.
Going through all that, the best athletes finally gather and go head to head against each other in the toughest battles, which wears them out physically and mentally as the rounds progress. They overcame those challenges without the help of fans cheering them on and picking them up when they need it the most. They had to rely on their teammates, their support staff and their faith in themselves to pick themselves up from tough situations without the crucial fan support. Through all these battles, a chosen few put everything on the line and earn the opportunity to stand on the podium representing their country with pride.
The athletes do not go out looking for praise or the spotlight for their work and sacrifices, but they truly do deserve all the accolades and appreciation that we offer them and much more. Unfortunately, in our country, politicians and celebrities get the limelight despite somebody else putting in the work.
We have had politicians such as Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh talk about the number of players in the men's hockey team who are from the state rather than praise the hockey team as a whole. Their neighbours Haryana, staked their claim in the women's hockey team, saying that the majority of the players were from the state. We have had politicians bickering on social media to see whose contingent was stronger rather than praise the individual athletes or the team as a whole. We have witnessed arguments between the two neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, each saying that Sindhu was from their state as she was born in Vijaywada but grew up in Hyderabad.
The Assam Chief Minister took it up a notch as he lit an earthen lamp in media presence at the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium to pray for Lovlina Borgohain before her Semi final bout. He also had a massive welcoming ceremony planned for the wrestler with a huge cutout of him, without the cutout of the bronze medal-winning wrestler within sight.
The Sports Minister Anurag Thakur also made the most of the moment despite attaining office recently. The Sports Minister made sure that his face was seen in most media outlets at some point in time, straight from the opening ceremony, which caused an uproar on social media.
Politicians treat historic moments such as these as pre-run campaigns and free publicity to further their political aspirations. Being seen supporting a star could have a huge impact on the minds of the people, helping them gain votes in future elections. Not every politician is out to please their voters as there are a genuine few who support the athlete and their cause like former sports minister Kiren Rijiju. The athlete is the one who suffered the most, and unfortunately, the spotlight gets stolen from them, making it look like the politicians and their support was the reason they won. Athletes and their support staff deserve the spotlight for all their work and sacrifice, and it is up to us as fans and citizens to make sure we keep it that way.