High up from my observatory in the skies over Tokyo, I look downwards at the sprawling sea of endless high-rise structures and buildings. Almost at the heart of it is a glittering new structure standing out like an oasis in the desert, shaped like a donut. It is the imposing Tokyo Olympic Stadium, a 1.5 Billion Dollars, 65,000-capacity magnificent sports arena, an edifice that has just hosted a unique and spectacular opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The stadium was full of empty seats. Only a sprinkling of less than 1000 special guests witnessed the event first-hand, a rather simple and modest (by their own previous standards) but technologically spectacular show and march-past of only a selected fraction of the overall athletes.
Even the Nigerian contingent of 52 athletes was pruned down to about two dozens who merrily waved and marched onto the covered tracks of the stadium to officially kick-start the 32nd Olympiad, a festival given life and significance by the expression of joy and happiness on the half-covered faces of the athletes that the world will ‘worship’ for the next two weeks.
After 8 years of preparation and over 15 Billion Dollars of transforming Tokyo into a sports paradise, the Japanese pulled out all the stops to outdo themselves and show that they are the world’s foremost IT and AI country with a technology-driven, but absolutely brilliant, opening ceremony.
Nigeria added its Green and White colours to the colourful night.
Unfortunately, several of the Nigerian athletes had to sit back at the Olympic Village to watch the ceremony online and on television. That’s what the world did not see – athletes whose Olympics began on the restrictive measures that would characterise Tokyo 2020 as a result of the strict controls imposed by the hovering and constant threat of the Corona virus.
The Eye goes back slightly in time, to welcome readers into the inner recesses of the Olympic Village in the last hours before the opening ceremony to see how the athletes are living and faring.
The Olympic Village is beautiful.
That’s actually an understatement.
It is breathtakingly beautiful and should actually be called Wonder City.
I overheard one of the female Nigerian athletes say, “we are in another world here”. Indeed.
They step into the city and the athletes forget everything, including all their hardship and the uncertainties of the past year, and thank their stars that they are finally in Tokyo and that the games are actually going to hold. The long wait is over. Life-long dreams and ambition to be OLYMPIANS can now materialise.
I even gleaned Nigeria’s Taekwondo Olympic medalist from London 2012, Chika Chukwumerije, dancing excitedly in the Nigerian quarters of the village.
Sport is demonstrating in Tokyo how not to succumb to a tiny invisible virus that has been tormenting the whole world for over a year. Life must not stop. That the Olympics have taken off despite the fears, protests and threats speaks volumes to the rest of humanity. Nothing should stop man’s march to his ultimate dominion on earth.
‘Together’ the world can beat the odds and conquer all human adversities.The air around the Olympic Village is simply fantastic.
The athletes are really happy in their bubble, far from the rest of humanity, living their fairytale, oblivious of the chaos and crisis in the rest of the world, celebrating unity, friendship, equality and peace amongst all men. 205 countries around the world, the largest congregation of humanity at any event in history, are in attendance, differences and divides set aside, bridges crossed. Here, humanity is one in healthy competitions, and everyone is a winner.I overheard Edem Offiong, the Nigerian female table tennis player remark, as she happily whirled around in her room: “so, we are here at last. We can actually compete. Thank God o. I am so happy”.
She was speaking the minds of the 52 Nigerian athletes that have started since last night to prepare to represent their country and be part of history.
This morning, as with every morning since the team arrived, their saliva samples were collected in a labelled tubes that were given to each athlete on their arrival. They are tested for Covid-19 everyday. The athletes do not mind. It is a small sacrifice to make in order to be here and to compete.
The good news is that only one Nigerian tested positive. The General Secretary of the Nigeria Olympic Committee was asymptomatic. He has been in isolation in accordance to protocols here, but will soon rejoin the Nigerian contingent any day from now.
D’Tigers were the last Nigerian team to arrive the Village. They arrived in style and lifted the spirit in the Nigerian camp. A few of them were selected to join the team heading to the stadium for the match-past. They were brimming with confidence.
The first Nigerian to participate in any competition was excused from the march-past for the opening ceremony.
As I am putting this down, 7-time Olympian, Funke Oshonaike is about to play her first match in table tennis.I’m flying over to that magnificent centre to see how she does.
By the way, ‘the Eye’ caught sight of one of the greatest sportsmen in the world at the moment in the huge restaurant in the Village – Tennis Megastar – Novak Djokovic! That’s news for tomorrow.