Opinion: Memorable Olympic moments shine through Covid cloud

Kimberlee Downs
Source: 1News

These Olympic Games were always going to be one for the history books.

21 July 2021, Japan, Tokio: Olympic rings stand in the evening twilight. The Olympic Games 2020 Tokyo will take place from 23.07.2021 to 08.08.2021. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa (Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

We heard the phrases repeatedly ever since they were first postponed: Unprecedented. Like no other.

We heard other phrases to describe them too: Unwanted. Controversial. Deadly.

In normal times, today, the last of the Games, would be one of celebration – and in many ways it still is.

We celebrate the athletes who offered us an escape for two brief weeks, who ground out an extra year of training, who battled emotional, physical and mental tolls, who inspired us with their abilities and with their character.

But today is also tinged with a sense of wariness as to what happens now.

During the Olympics, Tokyo’s had its biggest surge of Covid cases, on one day topping 5000 for the first time.

People have flocked to try and view events they’ve been told to avoid.

The city remains under a state of emergency.

The cost to Japan of hosting the Games was estimated to be more than $20 billion. We don’t yet know how much the country will be able to recoup.

I’ll admit since the sport itself started, I haven't thought much about the bigger picture.

It’s been easy to forget from within the confines of the Olympic bubble, especially with so much Kiwi success to focus on.

From New Zealand’s first medal of these Games - Hayden Wilde’s unforgettable triathlon bronze - to the sheer dominance of our greatest ever, Lisa Carrington, the New Zealand team has been sensational.

Lisa Carrington became New Zealand's most decorated Olympian when she won the K1 500m at the Tokyo Olympics. It was her third gold of the Games and the fifth of her career.

A record 20 medals across 11 sports, seven of them gold – just one shy of our best ever gold medal haul at the LA games.

And as much as the medal moments, I’ll remember the class the athletes displayed, the pride with which they competed, and the bonds they clearly formed with each other at an Olympics where they couldn’t have their normal supporting casts on hand.

I was privileged to witness the rousing waiata and haka the men’s sevens team performed for the rowers after their campaign.

To talk to David Nyika as he fought back tears after being called up as the New Zealand flag bearer.

To see the emotion of Black Ferns sevens captain Sarah Hirini as she finally captured that elusive gold medal, and honoured her late mum.

Among many, many others, those moments will stay with me forever.

From what I’ve heard from back home, there have been just as many moments that will stay with you too.

So while the overarching legacy of these Olympics will be debated and determined in time, for now, as our time in Tokyo draws to an end, I’m simply grateful for what’s been.