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The surprising joys of the Olympics in lockdown

  • 14 September 2021
I have never paid much attention to the Olympics or Paralympics. The games always seemed too patriotic while simultaneously being too individualistic. Plus, I don’t enjoy watching people push themselves so hard for something to the point where they need to throw up. That said, I’m in Melbourne in lockdown, I’m working from home, and living alone and I need to have something on in the background while I work, or I feel too lonely. If I play music, I get distracted. So I decided to tune into the games and have them on in the background, volume low, to see if it helped me focus.

I began passively watching the Tokyo Olympics with a completely closed mind, fully prepared to be bored and returning to work in silence again. But I couldn’t have been more surprised.

What started as a focus strategy slowly became a pleasure, then a joy, and almost an obsession as I was introduced to entire galaxies of sports I hadn’t known existed. The canoe slalom and canoe sprint — both of which I’d never heard of — first had me hooked, as did the skateboarding, surfing and ‘sport climbing’.

In those weeks, the games became a companion. And it wasn’t just the sports themselves, it was the coverage around them. Commentators and event callers for Channel 7 like Bruce McAvaney guided viewers into events with intricate knowledge not only about the sports in question but about each team of athletes from all over the world, revealing insights into their stories with irresistible passion, dedication and pride.

And with the close of each event, with the medal ceremonies came the biggest reminder of the change the world has endured over the past 18 months, as the athletes stood on the podium and put medals on themselves and often on one another. It felt low-key, personal and heartwarming.

Similarly simple and touching displays of comradery happened not just within the Australian team but amongst communities of competitors.

'More than anything, the games highlighted how important it is to remain connected, to put aside differences, both national and personal, and come together to support each other.'

After the Olympic games finished, and before the Paralympics began, I was adrift. I began to feel empty and lost without the constant cycle of events on in the background. Needless to say, it was no longer just about facilitating focus. How would I live without an unending parade of athletes stretching previously-held