We are a few days away from Opening Ceremonies, stumbling and bumbling our way into a Games postponed a year and now without live spectators. But the athletes have waited and trained and practiced and now it’s Their Time.
There will be some changes for Tokyo 2020, not the least of which will be boxes of face masks and gallons of hand sanitizer. It’s not even really weird that the year these contests are being held is not the year they will be named (Wha? Not Tokyo 2021? Nope).
Consider that the Games of the VI Olympiad were in Berlin, in 1916. Didn’t know about those? They were cancelled because of World War I, but the IOC kept them in the official list. Whereas the IOC didn’t include the 1906 Games in Athens, which are now called the Intercalated Games, because the IOC didn’t run them. Whenever you wonder why the IOC is doing something out-of-touch with reality, just remember the VI Olympiad.
But these changes are exciting, so let’s discuss. Let’s talk about some of the new sports, the new Mixed Teams, and the new peoples we will see competing.
A chunk of my childhood was in black and white. Or, to be more accurate, my recollection of the outside world as-it-was when I was young, my memory of historical events, is in black and white because television was in black and white, and that was the conduit to the outside world. The Vietnam War, the Brady Bunch, Richard Nixon, the funeral of Martin Luther King, and even cartoons. Saturday nights when I was a pre-teen belonged to black-and-white UHF stations, to Big Time Wrestling.
One of the stars from those days was Pat Patterson, whose obituary in the New York Timesthis week caught my eye. He was Canadian; he was gay; he was a legend. But all of the wrestlers loomed larger than life. It was the nature of their business to loom.
Big Time Wrestling
Wrestling, like so many forms of circuses in our world of bread and circuses, has evolved multiple times over the centuries. My grandparents probably saw it as a sideshow in a circus or attached to vaudeville acts before the invention of TV and mass media. It did not spring forth in whole cloth as it is today, in pay-per-view, with lasers flashing, tens of thousands of fans, and heavy metal music blaring. The version I saw was on that tiny (9-inch) TV screen on grainy channel 40 in a musty half-filled Sacramento auditorium. But it was essentially the same.
Baseball is back, and it’s already making headlines. Basketball is in the Bubble and the Wubble, about to (re)start exhibition play. Soccer’s been on for a while, although on a pay channel, which is either a missed opportunity or where it belongs, depending on how much you like soccer.
That’s Spectacular from the Latin word “speculum” meaning something to watch, especially something lavish, eye-raising, or amazing. It can be used negatively, as in “making a spectacle of yourself” or as in trying to divert attention. Right now, we need some diversion, without a summer blockbuster movie or new singing competitions. We’ve always had spectacle, even though the spectacles of yesteryear were different. Verdi’s massive opera Aida, premiered in Cairo in 1871 with hundreds of extras; sometimes it’s even been staged with elephants. I wouldn’t mind seeing some elephants right now, would you?