Essays

When the Games can’t go on

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed. It is only the fourth time this happens in 124 years, the only three previous occasions being due to World War I and World War II.

The global virus pandemic of 2020 is forcing a halt on all international sport and cultural mega-events and this raises meaningful questions regarding the significance of such large celebrations and the extent to which it is essential or not to see them happen.

In this collection of articles and short film, Dr Beatriz Garcia discusses the importance of finding creative ways of sharing stories about major events and what makes them meaningful. Beatriz argues in favour of artists – as distinct from marketing and communication teams – playing a leading role to tell such stories while on lockdown.


Reflections from Beatriz Garcia

the main test of value for mega-events is their capacity to act as platforms for storytelling that inspire communities worldwide.

As I have argued for the last 20 years, the main test of value for mega-events is their capacity to act as platforms for storytelling that inspire communities worldwide. In this sense, far from seeing current cancellations and postponements as a route into oblivion, organisers should find alternative ways of sharing what it has taken them to prepare for their event and the reasons why hundreds of thousands of people are not just financially but emotionally invested in such grand occasions.

The Tokyo Games organisers were starting their story-telling on the 12 March, with the initiation of their torch relay, which was lit in Ancient Olympia and promoted through pre-recorded promotional films of open air runners and cheering crowds. It was the worst timing imaginable and the narrative, unadapted as it was to the news of the day, felt inappropriate to a week marked by growing numbers of nations going into population lockdown. With the formal postponement of the Games, organisers now have time to rethink and repurpose their narrative. There is much that can be shared about what has taken place since preparations started in 2013, what Japan has been building for and what explains the value and significance of these Games in our times.

Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games in 1964, and this was the chance for Japan to tell the story of rebuilding their nation in the aftermath of World War II. It will be fascinating to observe how Japan may tell us the story of what it takes to host the Games again in the aftermath of a global pandemic. In this sense, it is a valuable challenge to have the leaders of the largest sporting mega-event in the world use their skills and resources to share and explain the stories behind the Games, that is, the cultural and societal context to the sporting competition and theit multibillion infrastructure investments.

Why do the Olympics continue to attract the attention and support of over 206 nations, 124 years after they were originally launched?

Why do the Games matter?

Why do we care?

  • See my article for The Conversationfocusing on Tokyo 2020.
  • See my article for Arts Professional, discussing why now is the time to look beyond mega-events as catalysts for real estate growth and commercial profit and rethink why we need them.
  • See a short (home made!) video, here

Follow additional stories on the Olympic Games via  Culture @ the Olympics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: