Performing in empty arenas will be a true test of the Olympic spirit

Performing in empty arenas will be a true test of the Olympic spirit

There is little doubt that the Olympics which has finally got under way in Tokyo will be the strangest ever.

The Tokyo 2020 organisers are in the unenviable position of trying to make it feel like a regular Games despite there being no, or very few, spectators.

The Olympics without much of the customary celebratory atmosphere may leave an empty feeling, although considering the circumstances you can argue that the Games simply going ahead is in itself worthy of celebration.

However, there is an underlying lack of enthusiasm for the event amongst the Japanese public, fearing it might act as a Covid super-spreader.

We can only wish everyone involved the best of luck and hope the Olympic spirit prevails.

There will still be plenty of drama, upsets, controversy and amazing performances.

What a disappointment it must be for all the competitors confined to their coronavirus bubbles and not having anyone to cheer them on apart from teammates when they finally perform.

Most have been training for years to reach this peak but they didn't plan on performing in empty stadiums.

Undergoing daily virus tests won't be much fun either and cases within the Olympic camp are already being reported.

It is such a contrast to the last time Tokyo hosted the Olympics back in 1964, which proved to be memorable in many ways.

For a start, it was the first to be held in Asia.

Adding to its appeal was a distinctive theme tune Tokyo Melody which even made it into the UK top 10 and did much to create interest in the event.

Most importantly, thanks to the new satellite technology, 1964 was the first Olympics to enjoy live telecasts, which proved to be a major breakthrough.

For the first time, people around the world could watch events as they were happening which naturally sparked far more interest in the Olympics than ever before.

Unlike this year's event, the 1964 Olympics was held in October so that athletes did not have to suffer the intense summer heat in Japan.

It will be interesting to see if the weather plays a role this time.

The United States won the most gold medals in 1964 followed by the Soviet Union who also collected the overall highest number of medals.

Japan came a distant third. It was also the last Olympics to use the traditional cinder track.

In 1964, there were plenty of memorable individual performances. Some names older readers might remember.

Among the US stars, Bob Hayes won gold in the 100m while a certain Joe Frazier took the heavyweight boxing gold despite fighting with a broken thumb.

One of the best performances came from New Zealand's middle-distance runner Peter Snell who won both the 800m and 1500m, regarded as an almost impossible feat.

In swimming, Australia's Dawn Fraser won the 100m freestyle for the third consecutive time.

Also outstanding in the pool was American Don Schollander who collected four golds.

Britain enjoyed an unexpected double in the long jump with Welshman Lynn Davies winning the men's event while Mary Rand became the first British woman to win an Olympic gold in track and field and broke the world record.

Another great performance by a British athlete came from Ann Packer who, after picking up silver in the 400m, caused a major upset in the 800m, winning gold and breaking the world record.

She had never raced that distance in an international event before.

Someone else who left their mark was Tamara Press from the Soviet Union. The Russian was in formidable form winning gold in both the shot put and discus.

Thailand didn't win any medals, but sent 54 competitors (47 men and seven women), the largest numbers competing in cycling and shooting.

On a somewhat quirky political note, Zambia declared independence on the last day of the Games, having entered the tournament as North Rhodesia, but parting at the closing ceremony under their new name.

Whatever happens in Japan in the coming weeks it will be a true test of the Olympic spirit, particularly for the competitors.

After all their hard work, let's hope it will be a memorable experience for everyone who takes part and that sport prevails over Covid.

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