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Rainy Side View: The Olympics belong to bygone days

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games began over a week ago which, in my humble opinion, is pupule.

With COVID-19 still running rampant around much of the world, what lolo thought it would be a good idea to bring into their country over 11,000 athletes from 206 nations? In fact, I will make enemies now by brazenly suggesting that perhaps it’s time for the Olympics to go the way of World Fairs or Expos, which is to say fade from view.

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I remember when a World’s Fair commanded everyone’s attention and travel plans. My parents made their first trip out of Hawaii to attend the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. It piggy-backed onto an even more important event: their son’s graduation from the University of Oregon. Other than an uncle who attended college on the GI Bill after World War II, my brother was next in the family to not only graduate from university, but one on the continent. It was a big deal!

Vancouver’s Expo ’86 brought friends and family to Seattle, stopping visit on their way to Canada, but after that, I cannot recall another expo, can you?

As with World Fairs, modern-day Olympics started in Europe with sports such as alpine skiing, fencing, equestrian, but eventually the rest of the world wanted in. We cheered the plucky bobsled team from Jamaica in the 1988 Winter Olympics, a whimsical endeavor with tropical islanders competing in a foreign sport requiring snow. They didn’t win any medals, but a movie was made, bringing the Jamaicans fame and fortune (I hope). It also shows how crazy it can be to those yearning for an Olympic berth.

I occasionally watch the Olympics on television, but there’s often too much empty talk and silly chatter. Some information is useful, such as why a double-axel lost points or how the diver’s splash was too … splashy. Other than that, I sometimes have to shout “Shaddup!” because I just want to appreciate the elegance of figure skating without the mindless yakkety-yak. My option is to mute the TV, which I do.

This year, newly added events to the competition are skateboarding, karate, sports climbing and surfing. You’d think the inclusion of surfing would make me happy, but instead, I’m a bit huhu. Why did it take so long to recognize a traditional sport which ranks in skill and grace to those practiced by the ancient Greeks who inspired today’s Olympics?

We know why. It’s because Hawaiian surfing was not taken seriously until appropriated by others who gained celebrity status and sponsorship in search of giant waves. While we applaud the gold medal won by local surfer Carissa Moore, the entire team should have been from Hawaii.

Hosting the Olympics requires big money. Tokyo is forking over $15.4 billion for this dubious honor. Perhaps some of those Japanese yen should have been spent to inoculate Japan’s population against COVID-19.

In 2016, the Olympics was held in Rio de Janeiro, an extravaganza costing $13.2 billion and showing the world the folly of hosting expensive sports events amid the sorry sight of favelas or shanty towns. Is there no shame?

I’m fully in favor of athletics and heartily support athletes. By all means choose your sport and do your best at it. In fact, one of my personal favorites is watching kids jump off the Coconut Island tower in Hilo Bay — surely an Olympic event, don’t you think? But spending your days practicing for, and your nights dreaming of, gold, silver or bronze medals belongs to bygone days.

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Time to move on.

Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at rainysideview@gmail.com.

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