Tokyo 2020: how was it?

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games came to an end in Tokyo on Sunday. Europe's commentators are at odds over whether the spark of the universal spirit and the values behind the Games was ignited despite the pandemic and the empty stadiums.

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Financial Times (GB) /

A healing, unifying event

Precisely because most people watch the Olympics on television rather than actually going there, everything was as it should be despite the coronavirus pandemic, columnist Tanya Joseph comments enthusiastically in the Financial Times:

“Finally, here was something in which everyone, everywhere, could take part. And because it is the Olympics, social distancing is not an issue. Very few of us have had the privilege of spectating in an Olympic venue. We are used to watching on television, in our own homes. In the age of social media, proliferating digital platforms and TV on demand, the Games are that rare thing - a truly communal global broadcasting event. ... The Olympics unite us.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Not a trace of Olympic spirit

Jutarnji list says the Games that just ended were a soulless, compulsory, commercial event:

“A year and a half ago, when the IOC officially postponed the Tokyo Olympics to July and August 2021, they announced that the Games on the new date would be a 'victory against the pandemic, a celebration of life as it was before'. But we are still far from all that. There was neither victory nor celebration; it was just about going through the motions and making as much money as possible out of what there was. ... The annals of history will record that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place. But the Olympic spirit skipped an Olympics.”

El País (ES) /

Focus finally on values once more

El País, by contrast, observes a return to the original values behind the Games:

“In view of the threat posed by the virus, the importance of sporting achievements per se took a back seat this time. ... Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the organising committee, spoke of 'courage'. It's a good word that fits in well with the great values that inspire the Olympics, which have been blurred for some time now by the desire to break new records: universality, fair play, solidarity. ... Tokyo has given the world new courage in its fight against the effects of a devastating pandemic.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Games of humanity

The extraordinary circumstances brought the athletes' suffering and hardships to the fore, acknowledges NRC Handelsblad:

“Some had extended their careers by a year because of the virus, suspended their farewells. It was a year like never before, often spent in isolation for fear that all the work and sacrifice would be in vain if one were to become infected just before the finish line. 33 athletes (and team members) ended up in just such a nightmare. They had to deal with the biggest disappointment of their careers alone in a little room. This led to heartbreaking scenes that overshadowed the Games at times. But the suffering also ensured that there was more space and compassion for the person behind the athlete.”