Did you watch the Tokyo2020ne Olympics? Different and strange as predicted, but the inspirational magic still came through. As onsite reporter Linda Holmes put it in What I Learned From Watching Every Sport At The Tokyo Olympics, it was “a whole host of unfamiliar worlds in which people work harder than many of us can imagine to build toward a moment that, for many competitors, will only come once and will not result in any glory, or any real money, at all.”
(I would edit that to: for most competitors.)
I was lucky enough to watch the sailing live while sipping sundowners in Hawaii, and boy howdy has coverage improved since my own Olympic adventure in 2004. Though Gary Jobson covered sailing at both events, this year’s mix of perspectives (drones, multiple boat-mounted cameras, and tracker graphics) made it possible to follow what was happening in real time. Gary achieved just the right level of excitement no matter who was winning, and (even more impressively) managed to sustain that excitement for an hour at a time—while basically locked in a closet right through the Connecticut night, all by himself. Very impressive.
It’s all too easy to over-focus on the ginormous gap between those who climb onto the podium and every other finisher, or get caught up in the behind-the-scenes dramas. But what kept me watching night after night was the simple inspiration and joy of international sailing competition at its highest level. Just getting to the Games requires a strong commitment to excellence in a sport that, for all but a few, will not result in “real money.” All Tokyo2020 Olympians should be enormously proud of doing their absolute best each day on the world stage—especially this time around.
I only had one Olympic experience, but seventeen years later it still inspires me to excel at what I do each and every day—even if that’s just drinking Mai Tais, while watching other sailors work so hard to achieve their own dreams. Thanks to all the athletes, and to Gary for bringing his own unique perspective to this completely different Games.
PS Linda Holmes’ sarcastic reviews of “all the best sports in the Olympics” made me laugh out loud several times. Here’s her assessment of sailing:
I began watching a sailing race early in my Olympic viewing, thinking, “I’m just going to watch this one sailing race, because I have to do some work today.” It took a while for me to realize this Olympic sailing race was going to take about two hours. Many sailing events are not really for those times when you are in a rush. They are contemplative. They are two hours long. Sailing is just like Christopher Cross always said: It takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be. And by “it,” I mean “watching a sailing race for the rest of the day.”
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