Missing the crowds at the Olympics?
One of the biggest fears of the Tokyo sporting extravaganza was the loss of the soul of the event - the lack of atmosphere, the dearth of vocal celebration. The magic of a fully lit tangle of fans, silenced.
When the crowd rises as one and lifts the roof off the stadium in an exercise of exultation, there is not a lot that can beat it. The most pure and treasured memories of sporting triumph, the piece you take away from the live experience, is the shared humanity.
Remember the 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Park? The noise of the collected fanbase will ring long and loud in the ears of all who attended. The most unlikely victory was achieved. Strangers embraced. Tears were shed. Guttural howls of celebration echoed through the stands. There were layers of incredulous hollering, hands shaken, fives highed, wild scenes of mass celebration. The energy of 40,000 impossible to replicate. The crowd floated out of the stadium, knowing they had been an integral part of a stunning celebration of sport.
There will not be these shared memories from Tokyo. For the majority of Olympic fans - the reason TV networks spend billions of dollars to capture the rights - those memories were only a pipe dream anyway. Most of our experiences of Olympiads are from the living room. We see the games through a different lens. Our memories are shaped by graphics, camera angles, drone shots, replays and the collected talents of the commentary teams, there to bring the electricity of global excellence into our homes.
Do we even need a crowd? I have no doubt the athletes feed off them. But in a number of disciplines, how many athletes actually perform in front of tens of thousands of punters? Short of the rockstar sports, most would be lucky to compete in front of a person and their canine.
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I've been so engaged with the competitors, hanging on their exuded strain as they attempt to squeeze every last drop of performance out of themselves, I've hardly paused to consider the lack of attendees. There is so much to drink in visually, the Games sans fans haven't turned me away.
Japan has done an incredible job of constructing venues for these Games. The attention to detail through a myriad of venues has been enchanting. The mountain bike course alone an exercise in brutal beauty. The stadia are impressive in their stature, gracefully poised to house the greatest athletes of their generation — just not the fans who put them all on a deserved pedestal.
The lack of fans will be most keenly felt as the games reach their crescendo during the track and field events. This is when the ghost town feel around the Japan National Stadium will truly make itself known. A 1.4 billion dollar silent sentinel, bearing witness to the quiet climax, populated only by athletes, officials and media. A skeleton crew in a vast mausoleum, this final image will be the overwhelming portrait of a games lost.
I'm not missing the crowd now, but when its crowning moment is upon us, the yawning emptiness of 80,000 vacant seats will be hard to ignore.