Abhinav Bindra: Postponing Tokyo Olympics was the only way out

"The scenario has given a longer preparation time. Enjoy every moment, take all positives, soak in them, and resist frustration," writes Abhinav Bindra.

In this file photo, the Olympic Flame burns during a ceremony in Fukushima City, northern Japan. The Games have been postponed to 2021 following the Coronavirus pandemic across the globe.   -  AP

 

The majority of humanity is under lockdown. The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with human life across the globe, beyond anyone’s imagination. Life goes on, sans the daily dose of sports.

In such a depressing scenario, there was no other way than postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had set a time frame of four weeks to decide on hosting the Olympics, but decided within two days.

We had a conference call before the decision was taken with 200 athlete representatives from International Federations, National Olympic Committees, IOC members and various others. It was decided that postponement was the best way forward, and was conveyed to the IOC administration.

So many countries are in a state of lockdown. It is a complex situation. For the Olympics, so much organisation is involved. There are so many stakeholders, the IOC, the Organising Committee, the Japanese government, sponsors and broadcasters.

People look out from a highrise viewing area at the newly-built Japan National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, the day after the historic decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The postponement of the Olympics has dealt a savage blow to Japan’s hotels and tourism industry already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.   -  AFP

 

Cancellation of the Games was never on the agenda. Everybody would like to see the Olympics. Now, when it is held between July 23 to August 8, 2021, it will be a celebration of humanity. In sport, timing is everything. You need to get the timing right.

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The fact is, about 40 per cent of the athletes have not qualified yet. The qualification events have to be held, and they have to make it as fair as possible. A schedule has to be made at a certain point. The IOC has already started working on them. The borders have to open, travel has to be revived.

Considering the complexity of the scenario, the decision was made quite quickly.

It was the right decision and good for everyone. It saved everyone the anxiety caused by uncertainty and suspense.

It was a relief for athletes, especially so as the earlier emphasis was that the Games would go on, as planned, on the original dates. World health is of primary importance, sports is secondary. All the athletes recognise the situation and appreciate this. The athletes are the most resilient species. They are used to a rejig of plans. The focus has to be to try and stay healthy. Make the best of what you have, when the world stands still.

The countdown clock of the Tokyo Olympic Games was restarted in front of the JR Tokyo Station on March 31, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The Olympic Games will be now be held between July 23 to August 8 in 2021 while the Paralympic Games will be held between August 24 and September 5, 2021.   -  Getty Images

 

It is indeed a huge challenge for Japan. I have never been to Japan. When they hosted the Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, I was not in the reckoning at that level. When they staged the Asian Air Gun Championship in Wako City in 2017, I had quit the sport. I was scheduled to be in Tokyo this April for a lecture, and wanted to look around a bit for myself, but had to cancel the plan. The efficiency of the Japanese is well documented. They have overcome many historic hurdles down the years to firmly stay on the road of progress. The venues have been readied well ahead of time. The enthusiasm and zeal of the people to host the Games, as the most successful ever, is definitely an advantage in meeting the challenges.

There is no denying that it is a huge puzzle with so many different missing parts. The world economy scenario will play an important role. Apart from economy, several humongous challenges will be there, owing to uncertainty. The Olympic Games may have some changes. We don’t know what is going to happen.

The bright point is that everybody is positive about the Games. Patience is the need of the hour.

The situation is different for different athletes. Some may be on top of their game and ready to peak. Their good preparation may look to have been undone by the current scenario. The Indian shooters come in this category as they were on top of their game. They may have to restart and get it right all over again. Those who have been struggling, will heave a sigh of relief. They don’t have to reach the Games under-prepared. They can make themselves better with the available time.

For the young athletes who are trying to build their career, it is a chance to learn. It prepares them better for life. In times like these, you learn to get out of the sport-centric bubble that you float around, and look at life with a wider lens. When you see what the world is facing, it helps you to evolve as better human beings.

“It was a relief for athletes, especially so as the earlier emphasis was that the Games would go on, as planned, on the original dates. World health is of primary importance, sports is secondary. All the athletes recognise the situation and appreciate this. The athletes are the most resilient species. They are used to a rejig of plans. The focus has to be to try and stay healthy. Make the best of what you have, when the world stands still,” says Bindra.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

 

As athletes, we lead a privileged life. We have to be grateful for what we have. Appreciate the smaller things in life which we tend to ignore, and take them for granted, as a matter of right. There is grief and suffering, as people have a tough life. This should be a time for introspection and mental growth.

At the same time, it is important not to allow frustration to strike a negative streak of thoughts. It is time for athletes, to bond with family and friends. To show solidarity with them in this situation of global crisis. And to stay in a good frame of mind.

There is a lot riding on the Olympics. The scenario has given a longer preparation time. Enjoy every moment, take all positives, soak in them, and resist frustration, so as to be at your best when it matters.