When I was eight years old, I announced to my family after winning my 50 metre backstroke race at primary school that I was “going to go to the Olympics”. I believe in the same year, I also announced that I was going to star in a Broadway show… as kids, we dare to dream.
The epitome of sport to me was the Olympics, and the top of performance, being on Broadway. And that is what this “greatest show on earth” is all about, inspiration.
28 years later, having attempted to go as a sailor on a few occasions, I have returned from my first Olympics, working in a very different capacity. But hopefully helping to make the environment at the Games just as “normal” as it should have been for all of those athletes who were there to live out their own dreams, and to inspire those dreams in others.
It wasn’t what I thought my first Olympics would be like, we were all in quarantine and isolation when not at the “office”. We had to keep our distance from the athletes, and stick in our bubbles, I worked near to but didn’t see some of my friends, and the whole time I was in Japan (19 days), I only ate two fresh meals that weren’t from a convenience store. This was all to ensure that the event could go ahead. It was reflective of how the world has changed.
That said, all of the negatives were completely overridden by the fact that we were at the Olympics, and the Japanese people are the kind of culture that gives back twice over the love and energy you put in. I know I have made many lifelong friends, and witnessed some moments in our sport that will be spoken about for years to come.
Congratulations to all who had to adjust and work so hard to make this happen, and thank you to the Japanese for having us, you are incredible hosts.
For those of you who pushed all of your own boundaries in 2020 and so far in 2021, just to keep surviving and living, my hats are off to you.
For those who are parents and have become teachers, for those who have not been able to make critical events, and worst of all funerals, for those who have had to act quickly and shift their business and work life to do different things, and for those in industries that have been hit hardest, from events, to travel, to performing arts and hospitality, you are all champions just to continue on.
I can see the parallels for all of those athletes who qualified to represent their country at the Olympics, and continued training and fighting, despite all of the challenges. I also applaud you, and for those who also went on to win medals, just know that you have shown the rest of the world that there is hope to continue dreaming, and aspiring for greatness no matter what is in front of us, and no matter what we have to overcome.
In the next few weeks while I am in hotel quarantine (and I send love to all around the world who are struggling), I hope to interview as many medallists and support staff as possible, so that we can draw on their will power, their drive, their determination and learn more about just what took them to their wins, and their dreams.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held in 2021 will officially close tonight. And much like that eight-year-old girl who dared to dream, I thank all of those who in these tough times continue to inspire others. And I am so thankful that I could be even a small part of the Olympic Games. Hopefully it won’t be the last time I have the privilege of having a front row seat to seeing so many dreams realised, but the Tokyo 2020ne Olympics will definitely hold a place in my heart despite the challenges for the rest of my life.