SO TONIGHT sees the opening ceremony of the 32nd Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Which, while officially opening a year late, has somehow simultaneously managed to start early with the first rounds of the softball and soccer commencing on Wednesday.
The Olympics, as is its way, always seems to creep up on us like this.
It rarely occupies the mind when it is not around but, before you know it, will dominate your existence for the next three weeks.
Corruption, performance-enhancing drug-taking, and city-destroying cost over-runs have taken a lot of the shine off the Olympic mystique over the years. Add to this the concerns of having a global sporting event while we are still yet to exit the global pandemic and you can see why some feel that the modern Olympic movement is irrelevant, even detrimental, to normal life.
Nevertheless, mark my words, there will be nights in the coming weeks where, even the most cynical of us, will forgo sleep to stay up into the wee hours of the night, to watch from the edge of our seats, the latest from a boxing ring, the hopes of a nation riding on a finish on the running track, or even to see how a bunch of lads from West Cork, pull like a dog, as they drive their boat down the length of a Far Eastern water park.
Having the Games on the other side of the world will make watching it difficult, but RTÉ will broadcast the action back to Ireland beginning each morning on RTÉ2 at 1.30am and running right through the morning until 3.30pm the following afternoon. While the BBC will have red-button coverage of sport running across the events with an understandable bias towards British competitors.
To be fair to the organisers, many of the blue ribband events, like the 100m finals, will be held late in the Tokyo night so we can watch them at a respectable time during our breakfast here in Europe.
Tokyo 2020 is unlucky not to have the draw of Usain Bolt as the must-see athlete. But most Olympics dredge up their own superstar and I’m sure Tokyo will be no different. In the men’s 100m American Trayvon Bromell will be the favourite to claim gold while all eyes are on Jamaica’s Shelley-Ann Fraser-Price for the women’s top prize.
American gymnast Simone Biles is expected to win the gold and the hearts of these games, while in the pool, Biles compatriot, Katie Ledecky will be defending no less than three freestyle titles in the 200m, 400m, and 800m, while also competing in her first attempt at 1,500m.
But essentially we will be looking out for our girls and boys in green to see if they can bag some medals. The recent medal haul from the European U20 Athletic championships may fool us into thinking that we are going to do something at this Olympics. It is possible. We will come close in a few events on the track but it may be an Olympics too soon for some of our promising young athletes. One for sure who will give it a good crack is Ballineen’s Phil Healy. Healy has so often shown her fighting ability to achieve beyond what is expected of her.
Our best chances at a medal, as is so often the case for Ireland, will be in the boxing arena with Kellie Harrington and Michela Walsh our brightest hopes for a medal.
Having players of the calibre of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry as our golf team is bound to give us a good shot at a medal here, even gold. But golf can be a bit of a crapshoot as The Open last weekend showed. And so, maybe our best hopes for a medal, especially a gold one, will probably come down to how the seven representatives of the Skibbereen Rowing Club in the Irish team perform. Most notably Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan in the Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls. Plus there are also high hopes again for Ballincollig’s world champion Sanita Puspure to do the business in the Women’s Single Sculls.
For dark horse bets, take a look at Rhys McClenaghan competing on the pommel horse in gymnastics. The young Downman has the hunger to win, is a character, and is red hot at the moment with Commonwealth and European medals already in his grasp.
The heat over the past week has kept us awake most of the night, prepare for a few more restless mornings as the competition heats up in Tokyo.