First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
The Games have begun.
Sure, these aren’t normal circumstances. Athletes are said to be sleeping on cardboard beds – look, I’m no pro, but I don’t know how good that is for an Olympian’s back.
Of course, there are other things that are a bit … strange, like how the Olympic torch relay was over – more than a year before the Olympics could take place.
And due to the postponement, I am assuming someone quickly blitzed the torch alight before four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka hopped up the installation-art Mount Fuji to declare the Games open and light the fire.
Yes, the opening ceremony itself was morbid, awkward and a bit of a shock to our systems. There was an interpretive movement thing that happened where dancers tried to untangle themselves from a giant web of red yarn – symbolising dread and disease.
The stadium was eerily empty and seats had been covered with different colours to give them that pixelated “full stadium” look. No one does functional design like the Japanese and the opening ceremony served as further proof that these Olympics and this year’s opening ceremony were designed to function in a very dysfunctional world. They did not save us from hard truths. I still think about the mummified zombie dancer, grey with illness. But here we are.
We will all, at one point or another, find ourselves engaged in something Olympics-related. And if you are filled with a sinking feeling at the thought of everyone dealing with the Games as business-as-usual, don’t worry. Follow these top three tips to thrive and survive this year’s Olympics during a global pandemic:
Are there too many people? Are they too close together? Does someone constantly sanitise those weights? Do not drown yourself in analysis. Just pick a channel, pick a sport and take comfort in knowing that this many people would surely not be doing this thing if anything could go wrong. Right? And then of course, do not answer that question. Do not ask yourself: what could go wrong? Once you have avoided that question, you are ready to get involved in the Olympics.
There are a few ways to get properly involved in the Olympics. Sure, you could be one of the many millions who just sort of have it on all the time and who suddenly watch themselves watching the big bore that is sailing. They have no interest in sailing whatsoever, but they don’t care, it’s the Olympics. Nothing wrong, you could be this person and while away your days. But, you want to stand out and prove just how deeply grateful you are for this reprieve from normal life. So consider this: make an unapologetically large display of how much of an Olympics lover you are. If you choose sailing then goddammit, choose sailing. Learn the name of the best sailor, drop it in every conversation, change your social media banners to boats or whatever Olympians sail in.
All those crew members make you too anxious to keep the sailing on in the background, even though they’re outside and you hoped the “fresh air” aspect would help you quell your Covid-19 paranoia? No problem. Swan over to the next sport. Skateboarding seems like a good one to watch for the sake of your sanity. Yes, there’s skateboarding this year. One person. Their own helmet. Their own board. No one else anywhere near it. Or how about individual diving? Again, very similar: one person, one board, no one else nearby. However, if you pick the latter, do not, I beg, think about the water. No, they do not empty and refill the pool after every individual participant.
Bonus tip: engage with the Olympics the same way those divers engage with the water. With beauty, grace, humility and as though no one is watching and they have not a care in the world.
This is a great way to stay aware of Covid-19, but also to disengage from the state of the world and just enjoy that, among all the noise and haste, the human body is still splendid and magnificent in its abilities. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.