Episode 1 : The show must go on
About this Podcast:
Sportified puts the Tokyo Olympics in historical context and discusses the economics, politics and the real health and safety crisis that looms large behind the Tokyo Olympics.
Siddharth Kher 0:03
How's it going, everybody? Welcome to Sportified. This is Episode 1, I'm Sid Kher and with me as always will be Sid Pandey.
Siddharth Pandey 0:14
Thanks Sid, pleasure to be here and yes this is Episode 1 and we are one month away from the greatest show on earth, the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020, which are being hosted in 2021. These are special times, these are extraordinary times, these are not normal times. So what we want to do is put this Olympic Games in perspective for all our listeners in historical context, where do they stand? Has there been a precedent what it means to be an Olympian? Should these games go ahead? Why are they going ahead? And if they go ahead, where will it rank? How will it be seen? How will history be written when these games are done or when the final whistle is blown? Sid, Tokyo 2020. never been anything like it.
Siddharth Kher 1:03
Nothing like it. I don't think anyone was prepared for something like this, the world was not prepared for what came and hit them right up in the face. But rest assured with the amount that you've just said that. I mean, there's so much to the Olympics, it's not possible to jam it up in one conversation. So this is going to be a multi part series where we will further jump into further detail about our athletes, the Indian contingent at Tokyo.
Siddharth Pandey 1:30
Absolutely. It is a very exciting time for Indian athletes that are heading to Tokyo. Of course, we will be diving in depth into the Indian contingent in a later episode into the next episode. Actually, right now. What we're trying to do is tell you all about Tokyo, this Olympic Games, and everything around it, because there's a lot that's happened as great uncertainty around the games, should they happen should they not happen? As things stand a month before the Olympic Games? We are going ahead there is absolutely no doubt about it. The IOC, the Japanese government, the athletes are already some of them are already in Tokyo. As things stand, the Olympics are going ahead. I'll just like to quote David Goldblatt. Here, the writer absolutely adore the Olympic Games have become the single greatest festival of a universal and cosmopolitan humanity. That is what these games have become. Japan has an opportunity to host these games, they had wanted it to be something completely different. We will talk about that. But Sid for you. Before we talk about the Special Olympic Games. What does it mean to be an Olympian for you? Wow.
Siddhath Kher 2:54
Now that's that's just such a heavy question. What is it? I don't I don't think as far as I can think of as much as I put myself in that position. I don't think it would do justice, for me to kind of relate to that feeling. Because I don't think I can put myself in a position to the blood, sweat, sacrifice, and everything that just an athlete goes through, to break through and to get to represent his country, let alone to represent the country at the Olympics. Having said that, I was fortunate enough to work on this film, which was based around the time of the Olympics, and I had I had the opportunity to role play an Olympian. And Damn, that was crazy. I'm going to just share this little moment that we had. I get emotional when I talk about it. So we were playing. We were we were shooting the scene of where the Indian team lines up and the national anthem is played. And we were shooting the Indian hockey team, Indian hockey team. Sorry, this was the film Gold. And we we all stood in that lineup. And at the stadium that we were shooting on the overhead speakers or they started playing the British National Anthem. They obviously didn't have the Indian National Anthem. And we just didn't connect, you know, nobody told us but somebody had cued the indian national anthem, and we didn't see it coming. So the next shot when they shot and the beat when we actually did roll, and the Indian National Anthem played, I'm getting goosebumps right now. And to just witness your nation’s flag being hoisted in a foreign land, while that national anthem played when when we cut, we will all teary eyed and we will act as playing a part. But that responsibility that lies on the shoulder of an athlete, I don't think it'd be fair for me to have an opinion as to you know, what it takes what it means to be an Olympian. I think you should shed more light on it. You come from a lineage of sports. So all yours brother.
Siddharth Pandey 4:58
I'll tell you why I asked you that question. He Sid because it's not possible to talk about the Olympic Games, or what it's all about before understanding what it means to be an Olympian, right. These are the people that make this event special. And for me, Olympians are not ordinary people. Olympians are extraordinary people that do extraordinary things. They do not live ordinary lives. They inspire people. Let me give you an example. The most watched event in India during the last Olympic games that was Rio Olympic Games was the badminton final, the Women's Singles badminton final between Carolina Marin and PV Sindhu. It's great. You know, when we talk about these two athletes, they shed light on what it is to be an Olympian Carolina Marin for example, she's unfortunately got an injured and won't be participating in the Olympics. This time around. She was the defending gold medalist comes from a small region of Spain called Huelva. She comes from a country in Europe that has never produced a badminton player of any repute. None, men's women's doubles no one. From there comes this girl, left handed, plays left handed, who along with a coach Fernando Rivas has decided that she does not only want to be the best player that Spain has ever produced, the best player that Europe has ever produced, she does not want to be the greatest badminton player of her generation, she wants to be the greatest badminton player of all time. That is the dream that she has set herself, you know, good dreams, it's unbelievable. On the other hand, we have PV Sindhu. Just go through if you get time just google PV Sindhu’s training module or training schedule before the Rio Olympic Games. months before the Rio Olympic Games, she surrendered her cell phone to Pullela Gopichand,Gopichand told her that if you want to be a medalist at the Olympics, these are the 10 things that we have to do, he gave her a list. One of them was of course, you got to surrender your cell phone, no social media whatsoever, you get up at 4:30am. That is when they would start training every single day, apart from rest days, obviously. And the schedule, there is no life beyond that, you know, there was no partying on Saturdays or having family get togethers or just going off to meet your friend, if you're bored. It is pretty much one dimensional, they do not have a life beyond sport. And if you don't lead that sort of life, you're not going to make it to the podium, you're not going to make it to the podium because there is someone somewhere in the world who's just going to outwork you and probably doing that are probably following that same regimen that you're not. Absolutely, you know, so, Olympians, not just pro athletes or elite athletes, but Olympians who get on to the podium, or people who do not include in their lives, mundane things like going for a drive one fine day, taking a day off. It just does not happen. They are the most single minded people on earth. Right. You know, and I asked you that question, you know what it means to be an Olympian? Because we have not heard from any athlete. Yes, they've asked questions to be fair like Roger Federer who asked publicly, we need clarity are the games happening or not, but we have not seen any athlete come forward. This year, I'm not talking about last year where, okay. You know, the world had just been afflicted by the pandemic, and people wanted it to be cancelled. But apart from that, for these athletes, this is the stage they all want to be on. This is where they want to be. And it is the biggest moment of their careers. And that's why you will not hear any athletes saying we want the Olympics cancelled, every athlete that I know. And I know some especially from the Indian hockey team. They can't wait to land in Tokyo. They can't wait to land in Tokyo and they can't wait for this to go ahead. Now we'll talk about the Olympics. Because until we know what it means for an Olympian to get to Tokyo, it would be not quite right for us to talk about the Olympic game, right?
Siddharth Kher 9:33
Right. No, but you're not just listening to and falling back on everything. I think the sacrifice and dedication. These are the two things that I think these people have that is from another planet.Absolutely. I got it. I can't think of living my life like that. And if anybody who's listening to this, any corporate person who thinks they can try it, you won't last a week. Not even a day maybe. So yeah, credit where credit's due And let's let's just take off we have. Rightly, so you know, I had to start as well at a point in time should the games be cancelled? Because we did know that it was moving a year ahead. It's being played out in 2021, which means you're already shorter on time for the next Olympics. So considering athlete preparation, we know it's a different it's a different event. It's not your usual run of the mill competition. So I did I did share that thought to about, should we, because once this is done, you're going to be hitting the next Olympics sooner with the athletes burnout, etc, etc. So that's what I was at.
Siddharth Pandey 10:36
Absolutely. You know, and just going through the history of the Olympic Games, has there been a precedent? Have we been here before? Not quite. But yeah, but we have. And, you know, I just like to shed light on Olympic games that share a similarity with the Tokyo Olympic Games. And there are a couple of them. You just quickly go through them. I think one of them that comes closest to what's happened right now to the world is actually the 1920 games in Antwerp. The 1920 games in Antwerp were held in the aftermath of two devastating, devastating events. The first one was obviously the Spanish flu. 2019 is when it hit the world. It hit it hard. Our country 1000s lost their lives. And the bigger event that was really the backdrop to these games was this First World War, the First World War had just ended. These games was they've come to be known as the funeral games Death was in the Air quite literally. and Europe was in turmoil. You know, the Russian Revolution had just taken place, the Bolsheviks had just come to power, there was Civil War raging in that country. So Europe was in turmoil. The first world war had ended, but devastation was everywhere. The Antwerp games were cancelled first, and when they were held finally 1920 it was quite improvised. You know, it was not very well planned, thought out over a four year period. First world war just and they patched together whatever they could, and through open the games 1920 for a long time, until then, even the Olympics had become the greatest PR exercise the world had ever known. It was the biggest advertisement if you wanted to put your city or something else on the map on your country on the map, right. Belgium was an imperial power. Right? London and Paris had already hosted the games. Belgium did not want to be left out and hence they had wanted Antwerp. Now Antwerp was already a booming business town, it was a port city, it was cosmopolitan. It is the centre of diamond trade. And it is only well a matter of time until Belgium asked for the games and Antwerp who Hosted it? Well, the games were not very well received. They went ahead apart from football, they were not very well received. So there was just too much on the minds of people in Belgium, in Antwerp for them to go out and enjoy the games.
Siddharth Kher 13:30
I see. I mean, you can, but rightly so. Rightly. So I don't I mean, if I tried to picture that in even today's times, I don't think it will work anywhere. I mean, you think of devastation and rather a flu and the air you're breathing is literally killing you. And you Hosting the game's
Siddharth Pandey 13:48
Absolutely you know, and apart from Antwerp, there is there is one other games that comes to mind. That is the 48th Olympic Games in London. World War Two had just ended, London decided to host the games. The Evening Standard carried an interesting report, which is very very dismissive of the games, very condescending, and its stone. It said and I quote, the average range of British enthusiasm for the games stretches from lukewarm to dislike, it continues. It is not too late for invitations to be politely withdrawn.Wow. Though The 1948 Olympics did go ahead. Yeah,Yeah. Again, much like Antwerp. There were some events which were very well attended some which were not quite very well attended. The reason was not entirely the devastation caused by the Second World War, but there was a lot else happening. It was the last English tour of the greatest cricketer known to man back then. Sir Donald Bradman. The Australian tour was the Australia team was touring England. Everybody was tuned into the series. It was Bradman's last series.It was announced to be his last series. And it was a great Test series single handedly took away the Olympics. It did have a massive impact on the Olympic Games. And it's viewership because parts of the Olympic Games were televised. A BBC did cover the Olympic Games. Most of it was on radio, obviously. Apart from that, you know, it was Britain itself was going through the strictest of austerity measures. It was known as the austerity games. You know, the London Olympics. The athletes that came in were put into Category A rationing. There strict rationing going on and the athletes that came in from around the world were put in category A now Category A rationing was rationing that was given to employees or professions that were involved in hard labour. I'm talking about miners, dock workers, factory workers. So the athletes who came in were put into Category A, these sort of things. This was the backdrop for the London Games. But the Latin games were extremely important because 1936 were Hitler's Olympics. We know that why they were held 1940 were going to be the Olympics of Imperial Japan, Imperial Japan were going it was cancelled, of course because of the Second World War. But there was this toxic imperialism that had seeped into the Olympic Games. The 48 games were a resumption to normalcy, hmm hmm,you know, so it was extremely important for them to be held. What else was important about the Olympic Games? The participation of athletes at the 48 Olympic Games, were more than any other Olympic Games, more than 4000 athletes from 59 countries decolonization had well and truly set in. They were new independent nations that came to the London Olympics, including India and Pakistan. Right. It was the first time Yeah, it was post Partition. It was Independent countries that went to the Olympic Games. It was very, very important for these games to be held for a lot of nations, including India. The 48 Olympics, the Indian hockey team went it had to prove to the world that we were still masters at hockey, we won. It was absolute euphoria. So the Antwerp games and the 48 Olympics comes really, really close to what we witness now. Millions died in the Second World War, the Holocaust, do a long shadow around the world, not just around Europe, Antwerp as well. You know, there were still dead bodies in the battlefields of Belgium at the Western Front. People who came or participants who came to the Olympic Games actually went to the battlefields and picked up souvenirs, German helmets, army helmets, the jackboots, stuff like that were picked up from the battlefield, you know,wow, so it is not the first time that death has stalked the Olympic games.
Siddharth Kher 18:18
Let us those medals. You got different kinds of medals with us?
Siddharth Pandey 18:23
Yes. Exactly. You know, so there has been a precedent. But there's one crucial difference for me Sid, and that crucial differences, these devastations had ended, there was an end date. Right? You know, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Now, if we talk about Japan, Japan is going through a fourth wave of vaccinations are less than 1% of the Japanese population. Japan is an ageing population.Hmm hmm. The dangers are real 48 Olympics, World War Two had ended. Yes, of course, there was, you know, the devastation of bombs being cleared from city centres across the UK rationing, austerity, all of that, but World War Two had ended. There's no doubt about it. The pandemic has not, it is amongst us. And I think that is one difference that sets these Olympics apart from Antwerp in 1920, and London in 48.
Siddharth Kher 19:22
Yeah, I think each each one unique in itself, and challenges and questions, I think could come up separately for all of them. But coming coming back to these games, we know we know pretty much like you said earlier they are going ahead. There is no turning back now and we're we're a month away. Do you I mean, where do you see this going as far as do you think the athletes are going to be prepared. Are we going to get to see a 100% deliverance at the Olympics if I if I may use that word.
Siddharth Pandey 19:59
It is so difficult say, you know, we are going ahead, there is no doubt about it. Everyone is everyone, all the stakeholders, I mean, apart from Japanese people are pretty gung ho about it. So 70-80% of the IOC's revenue comes from the Olympic Games. That's from the Summer Olympic Games. Let me be very precise. A big chunk of that comes from broadcast revenues that it gets from NBC, the American broadcaster. Let's take the NBC for example, the NBC has lined up more than 8000 hours of coverage. live coverage I'm talking about forget the pre show post show non live action, the highlights reel that will be played, I'm talking about 8000 hours of live coverage, broadcast straight from Tokyo. Wow. You know, they've got experts lined up, they're going to be paying billions for this. The biggest chunk of broadcasting revenue for the IOC comes from the NBC. Now, we also have to consider that the money that the IOC gets, it re-spends in promoting sports, Olympic Federation's in underprivileged, sorry, not underprivileged, but under the underdeveloped, underdeveloped nations, and so on and so forth. The Japanese people are not very excited, and we cannot take away from that, you know, and we will come come back to that. But for the IOC for the athletes for the Japanese government, they are going ahead with it, there is absolutely no doubt about it.
Siddharth Kher 21:37
I mean, this I mean, yes, I read this article that said they had about 400,000 odd signatures from the locals who didn't want the games to go ahead. Secondly, I still think what what is the Olympics without the fans, you know,
Siddharth Pandey 21:55
they're still to take a call on that will spectate look, foreign spectators have been banned, and nobody's going to the Olympics from any other nation. People in Japan are seriously worried with the volume that's coming in already, more than 90,000 people are going to descend on Tokyo, in a month from now that is a lot of people from all over the world. Vaccination drives and a lot of countries has not picked up we know that all these many people coming into Tokyo from around the world. They are yet to take a call whether they should let spectators in that will be just unreal, to have the Olympic games without spectators to not hear that roar when the gun goes off, and the fastest human being races towards the finish line in the 100 metres. Men's and Women's that will be a very, very strange feeling. You know, that is just going to be something that we've not been witness to. Now, we saw empty stadiums even in Rio, you know, it was normal times it was normal Olympics. The organiser said that the tickets have been sold. And we've sold these many tickets, but people did not turn up for whatever reason. There were empty seats at a lot of events in Rio. But Tokyo, right? Not normal times, we don't know where the spectators will be allowed. The call has not been taken as yet. So it's just quite strange. The entire situation is quite strange. We know how stringent The rules are. For everyone coming into Tokyo. The athletes are going to take time to adjust to these, you know situations where the protocols are just so different from any other Olympic Games.
Strange one, it's going to be I mean, I don't know what to even look forward to. But it's going to be quite an experience. Like I think this whole the past two years have been quite an experience. It's the first time sport I think by and large has been without fans. I don't think it's ever happened before. So it is it is we I mean Stranger Things can happen. But yeah, I mean, any any final thoughts on on Tokyo?
Yeah, sure. You know, every Olympic Games has a symbolism attached to it. You know, there's a message that every games tries to send out. We know what Hitler was saying in 1936. You know, it was all about racial superiority. We are the master race x y Z... Imperial Japan would have tried to say the same thing. You know, Beijing 2008 was all about China's arrival on the world stage. Putin went all out with the Sochi Winter Olympics. 1964 was the first time that Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games. What was the symbolism attached to that? Japan tried to say we are back You know, we are doubling our GDP. We are Asia's most industrialised nation. It was what the Times called the sci- fi games. It was the first time at the Olympic games that computers were used. The world was amazed to see bullet trains super highways that Japan had built. It was truly remarkable what Japan had achieved post the Second World War, and they wanted to showcase that, you know, that is what 64 was all about. 2020 was going to draw inspiration from 1964. And it was going to go a step further, Tokyo 2020 was going to be all about the future. It was going to be about robotics, you know, robos driving cars on driverless cars, ferrying athletes from the airport to the village. It is going to be about Japan's electronics industry, it is going to be about gadgetry, it was going to be about the future. Japan was going to try and bust myths that an ageing population is not a dynamic population, it was going to use the Tokyo games to beat stagflation that has plagued the Japanese economy since the 1990s. Tokyo 2020 was going to do a lot for Japan, as a nation, you know, it was going to shed new light on what Japan is what Tokyo is 64 recast Tokyo as a city, it became a city of the future 2020 was going to do that. And more, you know, it was going to say, Japan is not just still a force, but we are a country of the future. I think all that's gone. All of that has unfortunately gone, the Japanese people have turned against the Olympic Games. One of the motivations that is being spoken about for Japan to host the Olympic Games is because they want this to be the forced first post pandemic games. Yeah, you know, the big global going to be watching, and the worlds gonna be watching. And people are saying the motivation behind that is because if Japan doesn't host the Olympic Games, the first post pandemic games is going to be the Winter Olympics in Beijing, you know, and China is going ahead with it, they are not going to say we are not going to host it or we know what public opinion in China accounts for Unfortunately, not much. So there's a political angle to it as well. So there's a lot at stake. We're talking about billions of dollars in merchandising advertising, if the games get cancelled. You know, there is just so much to lose. And there is the overriding risk of what a lot of virologists have said could be the Tokyo variant where people descend from all over the world onto Tokyo, and they take back with them another strain or another variant, the Olympics strain, and that could be devastating. But what we do know and as we've said, is the Olympics are going ahead. Yep. They are going to be unique, they are going to be like no other Olympic Games. It's so much uncertainty surrounding the Olympic Games, they are going ahead, will they go the IPL way, you know, we hope not near we hope not. We hope it's it's a safe Olympic Games, we hope, even in a limited way. The Olympic Games does bring what it always brings to people around the world, the joy of effort, or a celebration of humanity and what human beings are physically capable of doing, which are incredible feets. We hope it is remembered for the right reasons. But we just cannot say where that will happen.
Yeah, having said that, I was just gonna say I mean, no matter whatever said and done, the games are going to go ahead, so we wish them all the very best. And let's hope all the athletes stay safe. And we do not have an Olympic strain or Tokyo variant that comes back. We will be back with another one. Another episode that will focus solely on athletes our contingent at Tokyo, across the various sports. So stay tuned and look forward to that one. In the meanwhile, if you haven't checked out our website, give it a look. It's pretty cool. And that's all we have for today. About Tokyo 2020 in 21. So we'll see you guys in the next one. I'm Sid Kher
I am Sid Pandey and for the next episode we have for you a very, very exciting episode where we will analyse what grace note had to say about our chances at the Tokyo Olympics. More importantly, we'll go through a run through the entire Indian contingent.
See you in the next one. We outta here.