Tokyo 2020: can these Games lift our spirits?

The Tokyo Olympic Games open today, and the first competitions have already taken place. IOC President Thomas Bach said the Olympic flame was a symbol of overcoming the pandemic together. But now the competitions are having to take place without spectators and in a dubious host country. Europe's press asks whether holding the event despite everything is the right thing to do.

Open/close all quotes
De Volkskrant (NL) /

The gold medal goes to the virus

Considering the manner in which the Olympics are being held it would have been better just to postpone them, says De Volkskrant:

“These are games without the Olympic spirit. The contact between athletes from all continents, the warm welcome from the local population, the self-confidence a country attains from being the focus of attention for a fortnight. Everything that sets the Games apart from a normal tournament is missing this time. ... At the beginning of the year there were hopes that these Olympics could become a symbol of the end of the global pandemic, of the liberation that would ensue. Now they threaten to become above all a symbol of the invincibility of the coronavirus and the suffocating lockdown that has had the world in its stranglehold for more than a year.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

All about the money

Tageblatt is not convinced by IOC President Thomas Bach's explanation that holding the Olympic Games is justified by their higher mission as a symbol for the end of the pandemic:

“The Olympic Games are solely about economic interests. They're about no less than three to four billion dollars in revenue that the IOC has yet to pocket, most of it from television rights. It's legitimate to want to save these revenues. What is more problematic is that the Japanese government has allowed itself to be bound by the interests of the IOC and is clinging to the Olympic Games even though the majority of the population is against hosting them at this point in time.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

IOC also represents the athletes' interests

The accusation that the Olympic Games were only pushed through for the sake of money is too simplistic, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“Cancelling the Games would have been tantamount to the IOC giving up on itself. ... This organisation has only one mission: to organise the Olympic Games for the athletes and to create the best possible conditions for them - whatever they themselves may understand by that. And that is what it has done. ... High-performance athletes who've focused on the Olympics for years want to participate when the time comes. Even at the sterile games in Tokyo. ... So anyone who wants to convincingly represent the interests of the athletes cannot at the same time demonise the IOC for going through with the Games.”

The Times (GB) /

The athletes deserve it - and so do we

The Times commends Tokyo for going ahead with hosting and organising the Games under these difficult conditions:

“The whole world will wish good luck to everyone involved, including the organisers, athletes, officials and above all Tokyo itself. The Olympics is a unique sporting occasion and thousands of competitors will have dedicated themselves for years to what for many will be the pinnacle of their careers. They deserve to enjoy this moment. The past few weeks in Britain have demonstrated how sport can lift spirits left jaded by 18 months of lockdowns. We trust the Tokyo Olympics will do the same.”

Libération (FR) /

Two weeks to turn the mood around

A dour mood at the start of the Olympic Games is nothing new, editor-in-chief Dov Alfon recalls in Libération:

“The atmosphere on the eve of the opening has always been gloomy. Who remembers today how the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, considered by many to be the most exciting sporting event in modern history, seemed doomed to failure because of boycotts by African countries against South Africa's participation, transportation problems and athletes suffering from a lack of oxygen because of the high altitude on their arrival? ... The Tokyo Games are kicking off with public opinion at a low point. Now it's up to the athletes to invite us to dream and make us forget this bad start.”