The Tokyo Olympics, which was postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has gone through many twists and turns.
Australia sent its second largest Olympic team to Tokyo this year, with no medal targets.
Holmes said that was the right decision, so that people could focus more on the cultural and social elements, or “the stories of people who might just succeed by getting to the Olympic Games.”
Due to the lingering pandemic which has spread across the world for more than a year and caused severe disruption to athletes’ lives and training programs, she added that it would be hard to predict performances of athletes.
“We don’t really know what the world rankings are like in so many sports because there hasn’t been proper competition with everybody involved,” said Holmes.
Spectators are another element that could affect athletes’ performances. This year’s Games will go ahead with few or no spectators. Therefore, Holmes said that some athletes who rely on an atmosphere to get them going would be disappointed, whereas others who get nervous in front of a large crowd could feel more comfortable.
In spite of these factors, the veteran journalist said she was hopeful that Australia finishes in the top ten of the medal tally, probably in seventh place.
One of the sports on which Australians are pinning big hopes is swimming. “Swimmers seem to set the tone,” Holmes said. “Some of our swimmers have hit form at the right time.”
Other events that she said might bring Australia medals include hockey and basketball, as well as women’s soccer. “There’s always great expectations for them, although the country hasn’t been backed up by their results internationally.”
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD
This time, Holmes will be working with three colleagues to do Olympic reports for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
During the past decades, she has worked for various media, including China Central Television (CCTV) in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, where she worked up to 18 hours a day.
“Beijing was just incredible in 2008,” she recalled. “The world was there for the first time and experiencing what Beijing had to offer, and that opening ceremony was just outstanding.”
She has interviewed many Chinese athletes, including hurdler Liu Xiang, swimmer Sun Yang, tennis player Li Na, as well as Lang Ping, the coach of Chinese women’s volleyball team known as the “iron hammer”.
Holmes has a strong connection with China, where she lived for ten years – four in Hong Kong and six in Beijing.
“I always feel very comfortable amongst the many friends that I’ve made while living in China, and I feel like I’m part of that group,” she said.
“We’ve shared so many great stories. We’ve shared so many great meals. We’ve shared so many great laughs that it’s a very special place in my heart.”
The senior reporter considers herself a “citizen of the world”, a privilege brought about by sports reporting.
One of her interviewees is veteran Australian Olympian Phil Coles who will soon turn 90. He competed in kayaking at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and at the Tokyo Games in 1964, and is returning to the Japanese capital this year.
“He said the Olympic Games and his memory is so strong and there is nothing in life that can replace that experience,” Holmes said.
CREATING A BETTER WORLD
Acknowledging the negativity that people associate with the Olympics in recent years, Holmes said those who have experienced the event could feel its charm.
“The world coming together at the Olympics is something that is not replicated anywhere else,” she said.
Looking into the next Olympics, which comes to Beijing again in early 2022, Holmes noted one of the challenges would be the delay of the Tokyo Games, so that time would be limited for the build-up of atmosphere of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
But she believed the lessons of Tokyo in coping with the COVID-19 could be learned by Beijing.
The Beijing Winter Olympics opens next February, a festive season when the celebration of the Spring Festival, China’s most important holiday, could add some color.
There have been calls for a boycott of the Beijing Games from some politicians, which Holmes doesn’t agree with.
“When we saw the boycotted Games back in 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles, the only people that were really hurt were the athletes, because they were denied the opportunity of doing what they do, and they only got the chance once in their lifetime,” she said.
“In fact, when athletes of the world come together, that helps create understanding to create a better world.”