Tokyo 2020: Opening Ceremony was an intimate curtain-raiser for the world’s greatest sports event - even without the crowds

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may lack crowds, but sports addict Iain Leggat is still planning to set his alarm clock for 3am and tune in

I remember watching Dina Asher-Smith storming her way to the 2019 200m World title in Doha. An unbelievable achievement. A moment in UK sporting history - the fastest women in British history becoming a world champion.

Moments later, Asher-Smith was left to run around the 40,000-capacity Khalifa stadium with little more than 1,000 people cheering her on. It was a painful and heartbreaking reminder of the importance of fans in the sporting arena.

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Take the crowd away from the action, what are we left with? Not much.

The Olympic Flame burns after the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Flash forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic cancelled sporting events around the world, and the Olympic Games have completed a remarkable return. It will be a Games like no other, with more masks, quarantining and social distancing - but more importantly it will be an Olympics without spectators (sigh).

It's a real shame for Tokyo. A city that no doubt would have put on a breathtaking show: the 2019 Rugby World Cup was evidence of that.

The curtain raiser provided the first reminder of this. The opening ceremony was intimate, touching and typically inspiring. Providing heart-wrenchingly emotive moments with some of the simplest of actions. However, the coverage was distracted by the constant reminder of the year we’ve been through and the changing world we continue to adapt to.

But as the athletes progressed, slowly, oh so slowly, into the Olympic stadium, and we were treated to the quarterly geography lesson, the sport began to take centre stage.

A drone display is seen over the top of the stadium during the Opening Ceremony (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Like any Olympics, the politics of the event led the introduction, but the sport will take over. A lack of crowds won’t stop the storylines being written. The moments of sporting brilliance will still be given their time to shine. But the camera will do the cheering for us.

The Games have adapted to being a broadcast only event, and more than ever, it will be a sporting show to watch from our sofas. Embrace this.

There may not be any Usain Bolt lighting bolt victory laps, Mo Farah ‘Mo Bots’, partying at the Beach volleyball, or gasping at the gymnastics.

But there will be addiction. Addiction to our TVs and screens. Addiction to the amazing, bizarre and phenomenal stories that the Olympics always bring, and addiction to sport.

Olympic super-fan Kyoko Ishikawa (R) who has attended every Summer Olympics in the past 30 years and her husband John Sledge (L) react as Japanese athletes appear on TV during the opening ceremony (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

The Euros and Wimbledon were the appetisers. The Olympics are the main course.

I for one can’t wait to debate about staying up late. Asking myself whether a 3am alarm clock will be worth it just to watch some Taekwondo, or 5am skateboarding is gonna be something I’ll remember in years to come (yes it will).

Now hand me the TV guide, I got some planning to do.

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