Irish Examiner view: Sport is equal to the Olympic challenges

The exceptional power of the Games to inspire and unite will come through in Tokyo
Irish Examiner view: Sport is equal to the Olympic challenges

Sanita Puspure was the first of Ireland’s 116 Olympic athletes in action today in Tokyo and the double world champion lived up to her rank and billing as a huge medal contender with a cruising win in her single sculls heat at the Sea Forest Waterway. Picture:Inpho/Bryan Keane

It is an achievement in itself that today’s Olympic Games opening ceremony is going ahead at all. It takes place in the face of considerable opposition to the event in Japan, ongoing fears over Covid-19, and the resignation of the ceremony’s director shortly before the show was due to open.

Any event this big, sporting or otherwise, will attract a share of controversy. The latest is the sacking of Kentaro Kobayashi, a well-known comedian, for making offensive jokes about the Holocaust in the 1990s. But there will certainly be other talking points, if not disputes, as the Games get underway in a city that is in a state of Covid emergency. Nobody can be certain how the next 17 days will go, not least the 11,000-plus athletes — a record 116 of them from Ireland — competing in 35 different sporting disciplines.

While there will be a strange silence in the spectator-less stadia as well as ongoing coverage of the risks posed by Covid-19, what will also come through over the coming weeks is sport’s exceptional power to inspire and unite despite — or perhaps because of — offensive or racist comments.

We witnessed that most recently during the Uefa European Football Championship, when people came together to condemn the racist backlash after three England players, all black, missed penalties in the final against Italy.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 faces many challenges, but now it’s time to watch the glory of sport shine through.

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