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What the Tokyo Olympics Actually Got Right — and What They Got Very Wrong

Now that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is officially over, it's time to reflect on what they got right and what they got wrong.
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The 2020 Tokyo Games are officially over. And let’s be honest, it was a journey to get to this point.

After making the decision to push back the Olympics one year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government felt confident they would be able to hold a “normal” Olympics in 2021.

But boy, were they wrong.

While the Tokyo Olympics brought us incredible athletic achievements, beautiful moments of sportsmanship, and emotional memories to last a lifetime, things were certainly not perfect.

Here’s what the Tokyo Olympics got right – and what they got wrong.

Right: No Spectators

I have no doubt it was extremely difficult for all the athletes to be in Tokyo without friends or family. 

Mothers and fathers were not able to see their children, teenagers were without their parents, and spouses had to watch their significant others achieve their dreams on TV. That had to be devastating.

Japan stadium
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But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Japan made the right call by banning spectators. With COVID cases rising in Japan, it would have been extremely risky to allow thousands of people into these stadiums, let alone allow overseas visitors to enter the country.

It was a difficult situation all around, but it was ultimately the right decision. 

Wrong: Not Requiring Athletes to Be Vaccinated 

Japan has been very slow in rolling out vaccines to its residents (by the start of the Olympics, only about 20% of the population was fully vaccinated), and the Delta variant began surging at exactly the wrong time.

US swimmers with medals
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Japanese residents, public health officials, and even athletes began to question whether it was the right decision to go ahead with the Games under these circumstances. 

But, instead of requiring every athlete to be vaccinated prior to traveling to Tokyo, Olympic officials just “recommended” it. This was not the right move.

If the IOC was actually concerned about public health and reducing the risk of passing COVID to Japanese residents, they would have made it mandatory for athletes.

Yes, you can still catch COVID if you’re vaccinated and yes, you can still pass it to others, but the risk is greatly reduced. 

Right: Discussing Mental Health

Simone Biles Tokyo
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Simone Biles was expected to rack up gold medal after gold medal, but instead, she did something much bigger — she brought the discussion of mental health to the forefront.

After pulling out of the gymnastics team final due to suffering from the “twisties,” the 24-year-old gymnast revealed her mental health was suffering. She wasn’t in the right headspace — and feeling the pressure of every American on her shoulders — so it’s no wonder her performance was faltering. 

“After the team final, we went to the village, and honestly I expected to feel a bit embarrassed,’’ Simone said, according to USA Today. 

“And (athletes) were coming up to me saying how much I meant to them, how much I had done for their world. That was the craziest feeling ever. In that moment, I was like, ‘There’s more than gymnastics and medals.'” 

Read More: Simone Biles’ Olympic Dreams Were Shot Dead, But Covid Loaded the Gun

Wrong: Interviewing Athletes Right After Competing

Yep, that’s right — whether they’ve just won a gold medal or lost out on being on the podium by 0.03 seconds, the interviews need to stop altogether.

Sure, that means you might miss out on some great moments — like US swimmer Caeleb Dressel sobbing on TV seeing his family — but it’s for the greater good. 

First off, athletes rarely give an interesting quote or soundbite right after they finish competing. And why should they? They’re exhausted, for crying out loud!

Second of all, we don’t need to be exploiting these athletes’ most devastating moments in order to get a viral moment. We can hear from them later.

Right: Highlighting Moments of Sportsmanship

Don’t get me wrong, rivalries are great. I love watching two teams go head-to-head for a gold medal or someone beating out their opponent next to them by hundredths of a second.

But do you want to know what I love more? Beautiful moments of sportsmanship. Forget all the medals Team USA won over the past two weeks–what I will remember most are the incredible moments of sportsmanship between athletes from all over the world.

The Italian and Qatari high jumpers who decided to share the gold medal instead of going to a jump-off. US swimmers Lilly King and Annie Lazor embracing South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker after she broke a world record. US track star Isiah Jewett and Botswana’s Nijel Amos helping each other up after tripping in the 800-meter race.

People will wonder whether these Olympic Games should’ve gone on for years to come, and rightfully so. The Tokyo Olympics were not perfect by any means and the IOC has a lot to think about before the Winter Games in Beijing in just six months.

But, despite all the ups and downs, there’s always something incredibly moving about watching the best athletes from all over the world come together to represent their country and compete on the biggest stage. 

Arigato, Tokyo. And au revoir, summer Olympics!