Unlike previous Olympic Games, while much is talked about coming together in the spirit of sportsmanship, the competition between nations is intense and mostly unforgiving.
It has been politicised and the athletes of some nations have paid a heavy price. The geopolitics of the Olympics has seen the marginalisation of nations.
In recent gatherings, Russia has been banned several times on charges of doping. It is also expected to be banned from Tokyo 2020, and to sidestep this punishment, Russian athletes are competing under the Olympic flag. Of course, Russia is an important contingent in the Games, the only country able to stand up against the United States.
Tokyo 2020 is a postponed meet. The Covid-19 pandemic last year was too intense to risk a sports meeting. While the current trend still indicates a high number of cases as the vaccination rate strives to catch up, the Japanese government had weighed the odds and decided to continue with the Games.
Most athletes would view competing in the Olympics as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hence, given the security promised by Tokyo, the athletes are eager to compete. And so they will from today onwards.
Despite the reports of confirmed Covid-19 cases among the athletes, there has not been any instance of athletes fleeing the venues. Thus far, reports from the Malaysian contingent speaks of high spirits, an eagerness to participate and win medals.
Our young athletes are ready to fight for victory, but never for a moment forgetting the concept of sportsmanship even under the current pandemic. Indeed, the demands on humanity and good spiritedness experienced by them all at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is not like any other.
Even the 1940 Summer Olympics of World War 2 (which was eventually cancelled) was more secure than it is now. Yes, the war was being fought and the security risks were easily assessed. But, not today. The virus is felt but not seen.
Japan could be the platform from which is refined the many, many standard operating procedures and safety restrictions that have been around for months, and have proven to be sometimes 100 per cent effective, and at other times less so.
And, as has always been the case, the festivities is not like any other. The fireworks, the colourful display, and the recognised pleasure painted on the faces of athletes and spectators alike. Such a joyous occasion is much needed by a despondent world. Children must know that the world has not stopped. That joyfulness and happiness are still in constant pursuit.
Tokyo 2020 may yet demonstrate the truth and depth of the Olympic ideal. Sportsmanship at its best. Very much inspired by the West, today, the Olympic Games is an international meet of athletic talent. There are 200 countries participating in Tokyo 2020. Rich countries play host and, quite naturally, it is as much a commercial project as it is a model inspiring a deep spirituality of humanism and fair play.
But, as much as competition builds a spirit of rivalry, the Olympics is where competition is intended to bring the best out of the athletes and the nations.