It is the world's biggest sporting event. No other championship comes close to the Olympic standard. Athletes train for years, committing their youth to refining their physical and mental strength to a single goal – of one day competing in the hallowed arenas that bear the five interlocking rings, for the world's five continents. A sportsperson's dream is to represent their country in the fervent hope of taking their place highest on the podium, having earned the ultimate win: an Olympic gold.
But even as winning is the dream of every athlete, we must not forget that a theme common to the Games every season is the competition that is excruciating and so is the heartbreak of not making it to the victory stand. Right from the beginning of the Games, from the time of the ancient Greeks, the Olympic Games have tested the human spirit.
Starting today, and for the next fortnight, we get to witness sporting excellence. And as we do, we must acknowledge – besides the evident talent – the grit, perseverance and hard work of the competitors, indeed the Olympians, who have made it, this time to Tokyo, and are waiting in the wings for their names to be announced.
It is a matter of national pride that the UAE has six athletes competing in the Olympics: Victor Scvortov and Ivan Remarenco for judo, Saif bin Futtais for skeet shooting, Yousuf Al Matrooshi in the 100-metre freestyle swimmer, and Hassan Al Noobi and Fatima Al Hosani for track and field events, 100m and discus, respectively.
All the competitors have distinguished themselves and earned the prestige of being Olympians. Even in a regular year, it is a grand achievement to compete in the Olympics. During Covid-19, the stakes are higher. The absolute need to stay safe demands more fortitude of the athletes, their coaches and their entire support teams.
The pandemic has added multiple layers of uncertainties to how the Games will be held. Already in the interest of safety and to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the Delta variant, international fans are not allowed in to the Olympic city and spectators have been barred from nearly every event.
Responding to the global scenario and the need for solidarity during the difficulties of the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee has added to its motto so that it now reads: "Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together."
But the challenge is enormous. The athletes in Tokyo will have to steel themselves for the silence from stadiums and do without crowd support and loud cheers. However, the sporting events will be telecast. On the ground though, for athletes, the natural onset of nerves and anxiety is likely to occur. And there are prevailing safety conditions for them to factor in: the solitariness of staying in the bio-bubbles, the constant Covid-19 tests, the anxiety over the possibility of a team member or any competitor being infected, thus making more elusive a chance at sporting glory. To cope with such unpredictabilities requires great courage and self-belief.
Regardless of wins and losses, we should root for all competing Olympians. Let's bear in mind that taking part in an event of such unparalleled stature is a moment of a lifetime and a victory in itself.