PETALING JAYA: The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which kicked off in the Japanese capital yesterday, is likely to serve as a much-needed balm for spirits long-battered by a trying battle against Covid-19.
A survey by global research outfit Ipsos showed that up to 77% of Malaysians believe the games will be a unifying force for the nation.
Olympics Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria said this is not surprising, given that sports transcend every barrier, from race and religion to gender and economic standing.
Most Malaysians covered in the survey also stated that they would be cheering on the badminton team.
Leading the charge for Malaysia is men’s singles player Lee Zii Jia, touted as the country’s best hope of landing the nation’s first ever Olympics gold.
With him are women’s singles player Soniia Cheah as well as Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Chow Mei Kuan, Lee Meng Yean, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, who will be playing doubles.
At 63%, the support for the shuttlers among Malaysians is far higher than that in badminton powerhouses China and India.
However, Malaysia ranks low among nations that support the decision to proceed with the games.
Only 33% of Malaysians surveyed believe the games should proceed, compared with 22% among the Japanese. On the other hand, more than 50% of Indian nationals and Americans wanted to see the games go ahead despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
Norza said it is important that the games are not postponed again or even cancelled because a lot is riding on its success.
Tokyo 2020 was originally scheduled to be held from July 24 to Aug 9 last year but was postponed because of the pandemic.
This year’s event will be different from previous instalments, given that there will be no fans cheering in the arena. Standard operating procedures will be enforced strictly to curb the spread of Covid-19 among officials and athletes and all will be screened for infection.
Norza said the Olympic games could generate billions of dollars that will go to athletes, international sports federations and national Olympic committees such as OCM.
“Any more disruption will have a negative impact on the development of sports at the grassroots level,” he told theSun.
Taekwondo Olympian in the 2008 Beijing games Che Chew Chan believes that going ahead with the games will bring some certainty to a world that is ever-changing because of Covid-19.
“From an athlete’s perspective, the hard work to even qualify for the games is huge and they deserve to compete and prove themselves as the best in the world after years of sacrifice and training, tears, blood and sweat,” she added.
Che, who is also secretary of the Malaysia Olympians Association, said the games will enable the nation to temporarily take its mind off the pandemic and focus on cheering on our national heroes.
However, she urged Malaysians to be more open minded to all Olympians and celebrate and support them equally.
On the other hand, three-time track cycling Olympian Josiah Ng thinks that the Olympics should not go ahead as human lives are more important than anything else.
“Although the event has the power to be a unifying force, it does not justify putting lives at risk,” he added.
He believes that most people have other worries and priorities on their minds, such as trying to survive.
“A gold medal at the Olympics can provide a few moments of pride but people will still be focused on survival in these tough times,” he said.
The 2020 Summer Olympics is already under way despite the growing threat of Covid-19 after a delay of more than a year.
Organisers have pushed ahead in preparing for over 11,000 athletes from 200 countries despite Japan’s struggle in handling the virus.