• John McDonnell

Good medicine from Tokyo


With 14 million Australians in lockdown, the action in Tokyo has come along at the right time to lift our despondent mood.


Not only that, but it is a great incentive for people to stay home - which is a bonus with the COVID-19 Delta variant being spread through Sydney by people visiting friends and relatives in their houses.


It was with great anticipation that we sat down to watch the opening ceremony on Friday night. It had its moments but overall it was a bit underwhelming. The technology was impressive, particularly the 1,000 lit drones that formed the symbol of the games and then morphed into a globe with maps of the continents. It was a fantastic example of precision aeronautics.


But we missed the exhibition of traditional Japanese culture. There were not enough taiko drums and where were the samurai and the ninjas. The presentation lacked the verve of the Brazilian opening with all the old musicians strutting their bossa nova stuff.


And no opening could top the London spectacle with Her Majesty jumping out of an aeroplane with Daniel ‘James Bond’ Craig to then emerge, complete with handbag, in Buckingham Palace to declare the games open.


There was a glimpse of traditional Japanese culture in the ceremony with a snatch of Kabuki theatre, but it was combined with a performance by a vertically challenged jazz pianist whose hands moved at lightning speed even if she couldn’t see over the top of the grand piano.


The finale was Naomi Osaka, the tennis player, lighting the eternal flame. She said it was the greatest sporting moment of her life. She would, no doubt, rate a gold medal higher.


On Saturday, we started by gluing ourselves to the cycle road race for six hours. The views of the scenery around Mount Fuji made time durable. There was added fascination with this race because all the riders had just ridden 3,200 kilometres in the Tour de France and flown from the Paris finish to Tokyo in order to compete.


In the end, the weather determined the winner. The European favourites found the heat and the humidity too much to handle and the gold medal went to Ricard Carapaz, whose home country Ecuador straddles the equator. It was a popular victory: other countries rode as teams, Carapaz was Ecuador's only games attendee and he had to provide his own support crew.


From the cycling, we moved to the football where our Matildas were up against a team of Swedish clones, who were all over six feet tall and had identical thick blonde ponytails. In the end, the clones won 4-2 but Sam Kerr managed to outjump them to score two goals with her black-haired bonce.


Finally, we went to the swimming where our Aussie battlers all made it into their finals. Unfortunately, this didn’t result in a flood of gold on Sunday, but we are still optimistic.


The action from Tokyo is the perfect antidote to the constant depressing news of infection numbers and the endless parade of self-justifying premiers.


No critical commentators demanding apologies from swimmers for not winning gold; no amateur experts pontificating on how our athletes could improve their performance and positive comments about anyone who managed to achieve ‘the gold standard’.


Add to that some beautiful views of Mount Fuji during the cycling and it was a great escape - and there are fourteen more days to go.