Human energy — the spirit, the body and the pulsating and intertwined force fields they emanate — if intense enough, lingers on. It reverberates through empty corridors long after people have left. Long after the end of their brief stints. Years on, we sense their presence, sense the energy, as we walk or rush through our lives and commitments. Plain existence can numb the best of us, but even the worst of us can sense the spirit that makes the space we are in complete and gives it significance beyond the present.
Throughout history, we have made attempts to converge collective individual energy for a larger purpose. It has led to revolutions, to progress, and to war and destruction too. The impact stays with us in the form of lives touched and changed. It remains with us in the form of the grandeur we feel walking into forts, palaces and memorials of class and political struggles, in the eeriness that envelopes us at war memorials, or the rush of adrenalin we feel walking into a stadium that has seen history.
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Stadiums…. They say the crumbling walls of the Colosseum in Rome — the eternal image of an athletic venue the world celebrates, so much so that this Roman monument was preferred over the Greek original on the Olympic medal till recently — makes us feel a bit melancholic. Maybe, it is the blood that was shed there, not out of choice or free will, but forced by bonded labour in its crudest form to satiate the bloodlust of those in power. The modern theatres sing different tunes, remind us of sagas more humane, free and liberated. Then we have the Olympics which embodies everything beautiful about the human race, though the Olympic movement itself, in its evolved modern state, comes with its own trappings. Nothing is perfect in life, sigh!
The Olympic Games is a convex lens. Every four years, it converges the best athletes in the world for a fortnight of celebration unlike any sporting endeavour we know of. And, once the flame dies at the central Olympic venue, and the buzz and dust settle down to the usual drone of a bustling metropolis — whatever or whichever mega city that would be — we tend to hear, smell and feel the spirit of the Games. The ghosts of the races won, lost and relegated to books and reels!
The reminders remain — from the signage and the special lanes, to the fading billboards, and the sporting venues themselves, occupied by echoes of applause and the oohs and aahs, amidst the future… The young boys and girls who occupy and train in these grand structures, ensuring the legacy of the Games is intact, and serve a larger more tangible purpose to the society.
In solitary moments, people of the host city, who were involved closely with the Games — a good five six generations if not more — would get glimpses of those grand two weeks. I do, even though I am not lucky enough to live in a city which has hosted an Olympics.
Whenever I move about in New Delhi, I get memories of another spectacle — the Commonwealth Games of 2010. Walking into some of the venues to cover tournaments now, we still see the signs and sights which greeted us 10 years back. Memories flood in. Emotions too. After all, we are all emotionally invested in an event, one way or the other, no matter how stone-faced a professional journalist we claim ourselves to be. And this was not even the Olympic Games.
The idea of the Olympian, the Games itself, and the grand stage it provides for athletes of every generation is a victory of human will and endeavour. That will have sputtered and stalled at times of crises such as the world wars, or now, when the world is gripped in the clutches of a pandemic that’s consumed lives, as well as daily life. The new normals are changing every day, and much like the fate of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, set now for 2021, a cloak of uncertainty shrouds everything.
Like all times uncertain, these are days which warrant introspection. From the social, political and economic systems which make the world tick, to the personal pride, prejudices and silos in which we live. Fate is forcing us to rethink everything. The world — guided by intangibles such as destiny, or tangibles such as survival — has begun its periodic churn, the kind of shift one has seen in history every couple of centuries or so.
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It is under these circumstances that the like minded sports scribes at Newsclick decided to mark the original fortnight of the Tokyo Games with stories that we would never have pursued had we been stuck in the very moment-driven rush of hitching shuttles between venues trying to keep track of the victories, the losses and the scores (settled or unsettled).
It is a mad rush, a happy mad rush. The inward journey — into sports, into Indian and world polity and social order and into history and even ourselves while pursuing some of the features and videos in the past fortnight — provided us an equally thrilling, yet more fulfilling rush. One that left some of us drenched. Needless to say, the creative, or maybe not-so creative, processes left some of us angry, bitter, tired even, but enriched all of us with the energy of the collective spirit that only the Olympic Games can converge. The largest convex lens ever envisaged and built by man, indeed!
Come October — a month in which I experienced New Delhi anew many years back — I will sense a bit of deja vu once again, the yearly dose. The seasonal shift from a summery-monsoon to autumn in Delhi brings with it specific aromas. I associate them with something else though. I, invariably, blurt out loud to the world that the Commonwealth Games season is upon us. I associate the period not with the memories and lights of Diwali or Durga Puja, or the beauty of the autumn blooms, but with the spirit of a sporting festival that remains with us, etched in memory but still prominent. Much like those semi-faded road paintings of the special CWG lanes which granted those associated with the Games immunity from Delhi traffic’s snarls.
Immunity is a tricky word to use these days. We seek immunity that we need, while at the same time hoping that this period of uncertainty has opened our hearts and lives to the immunity and apathy that we don’t need. Only then would we have truly overcome this crisis situation, overcome the coronavirus and the viruses that afflict us.
Immunity will also grant the citizens of Tokyo — the generations who call it home now — the privilege of deja vu in the coming years, when the sights, scents and humidity of their city in the summer reminds them of something grander than the seasonal and existential vagaries of the daily rut.
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Winding up Newsclick’s ‘Tokyo 2020, the Olympic Fortnight Series’, we do so with the knowledge that this is not a closing ceremony but the start of a long wait for the moment when the Games will be thrown open to the world in the Japanese capital. We will be able to do it all over again, we reminded ourselves while brooding over the end of the fortnight this day.
All over again, albeit differently and hopefully as better and larger men and women!
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