Theit’s over. And what a couple of weeks it was.
It offered the wildest moment (and the most perfect metaphor) in its first week. Blessed are you Dean Boxall.
Seeing her swimmer Ariarne Titmus win gold ahead of American swimming legend Katie Ledecky,. Breaking free from the rigid confines of normal human behavior, he entered what I will now refer to as “Beast Mode”.
Pushing past the flimsiest steel barrier ever built, into a restricted area that he clearly shouldn’t have had access to, Boxall removed the required mask and proceeded to … dry hump a fence like The Ultimate Warrior around Wrestlemania 6?
As I said. Beast mode.
The best part: Deep down, a Japanese Olympic official, doing her best to offer resistance, raises her hands like a scared gazelle and then succumbs. Slowly, those raised hands are lowered, evolving into confused applause. All right, it seems to say. You are here now. There is nothing you can do about it. I’m going to try and enjoy this front row seat in Beast Mode, starring Dean Boxall.
In this metaphor, Boxall is the Tokyo Olympics. Both as an event and as an idea. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, both of them probably shouldn’t be here. As the world reels from the effects of the delta strain and global vaccinations, these are the Olympics that no one asked for. Dean, what are you doing here? Fuck off, Dean. Now it’s not the moment.
I? I am the Japanese official. They were Alles the Japanese official. Nervous, unsure of how to react, finally accessing this moment completely out of our control. Even in Japan, the host country, people were protesting the Olympics. We first collectively raise our hands in passive resistance. Seconds later we were all clapping.
And we applaud because Dean Boxall is amazing. Reckless, sure. But so amazing. The Olympics were also reckless, but also amazing.
This is what the Olympics offers: Beast Mode directly on your screen and in your heart. He’s in the business of providing iconic moments like Boxall’s. Moments that simultaneously inspire and subvert our sense of what is possible. Weird shit, displays of pure athleticism.
Two men collapsed in each other’s arms when. Skateboard girls cheering each other on, making fast friends in the face of fierce competition. Runners who stumble, fall into race-ending collisions, and miraculously recover to win races.
Incredible and inspiring moments.
Maybe we live in a universe where moments like these are adored, twisted, and molded into GIFs, tweets, and memes in an endless spiral of social media content, but somehow it feels like we’ve had more of these moments compared to the previous Olympics. That these Olympics have meant more than we could have hoped for when we cynically and reluctantly invite them into our homes.
Personally, as a man living in Sydney, a citypotentially lasting for months, the Olympics were an ointment that I didn’t realize I needed. It was a welcome distraction as she juggled homeschooling, work, and an almost permanent dread in the daily ritual of waiting for Sydney’s case numbers to drop so we can all go back outside and live relatively normal lives.
There were a million reasons why the Olympics should not have taken place in 2021. A million reasons why we should not have seen and supported what is arguably an irresponsible event held for the wrong reasons. But it is also equally possible that, this year, the Olympics were more useful than ever.
The Tokyo Olympics probably shouldn’t have happened due to COVID-19. But I’m also happy that it happened, because of COVID-19. If that makes sense.
None of that makes sense.
But right now, the sport, with its simple rules and digestible results, with its warm cloak of normalcy and straightforward narratives of triumph over adversity, is perhaps the only thing that makes sense.
The Olympics, like Dean Boxall, made their way into our homes and televisions and refused to go away. For an unwanted guest. But, as the insecure Olympics official grappling with the irrepressible box while drying a fence, I’m glad the Olympics made its way into my life. I couldn’t have done the running without him.