Friday’s opening ceremony of the 32nd Olympic Games in Tokyo was unusual and unique. And there were two main reasons for this. On the one hand, there is the desire never again to experience the dystopia of Olympics during a pandemic repeated. There was also something else, something precious in these times we are living in, even if there was a lack of cheer and sheer phantasmagoria: there was a sense of respect for the millions of people who have perished in this pandemic.
There was also the sense that “minimalism,” besides being an art in which the Japanese are unsurpassed, should be the motto for our times. It was not just the minute of silence observed or the solitary male athlete at the starting line or the lone female athlete shown to be training in the dark, as if on a treadmill. The most striking aspect was the silence. There was an absence of spectators (only 950 guests), although there were thousands of multicolored seats to mitigate the visual effect of the emptiness.
There were also masks, social distancing, smaller than usual delegations in the march of participating countries, with the Refugee Olympic Team getting the most attention. This was a silence both real and symbolic. Consciously or not, it was calling for a reconsideration of the Games themselves, their limits and the conditions they take place under, with billions spent and scandals that, every so often in the past few decades, burst into the open.
In the first minutes of the opening ceremony, dancers and athletes created a global web, a neural network peering into the human body but also representing the planet’s digital connection. We are alone and, simultaneously, all together, with no distinctions, united in our differences, with threads visible and invisible. “Imagine all the people,” they sang in the second part of the ceremony.
The pandemic demanded, of all people, a stamina of athletic proportions. And it is still, for all the world, a long-distance race, with hurdles. Since digital reality has largely substituted tangible reality, as yesterday’s ceremony showed, the 32nd summer Olympic Games have an enhanced role. It is not only the anticipation of Olympic records.
Especially this year, the Olympic Truce could be an encouragement: let us, during these 16 days, make a truce with ourselves. Since the Games cannot be a feast of participation, let them be one of introspection.