Virtually covering the Games


THERE is an interesting angle to the Olympics happening at present in Tokyo: the intense online streaming of the events.

Count some 20 years ago and news about the Olympics—the opening and closing ceremonies, the defeats and victories—came via the news bureaus and processed through newspapers. Outside these origins, there were free TV and radio.

At present, fans of the Olympiad are sourcing their videos and images of the events in Tokyo through the Internet in various social-media forms, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, plus streaming platforms.

The results are heightened presentations, with news reports accessing different timelines and viewers given the liberty and ability to deepen their understanding of what is happening right now in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Sometimes, there is too much liberty in handling the news about athletes and their sports. As with the advent of fake news, there is so much to be critical about vlogs and blogs, where sometimes the information is not anymore about the discipline of the athlete but the sordid background of how he or she got there in Tokyo in the first place.

There are value-added angles in the present mode of reporting. Years back, one watched the games from beginning till the end, say, from the initial preparation to the competitions. At present, one can view the competition and work back to find out how the winning athlete fared in the previous Games or qualifying rounds. And one does not have to do a bit of sleuthing; the algorithm provides the back story and predictive accounts.

A performance thus turns into a dense forest of experiences and apprehensions.

Given the availability of many data and information around an athlete and a particular game, annotators and emcees from established networks now are more circumspect about their narratives. In general, these sports journalists allow the audience to savor the “show;” rare now are those voices that over-annotate. There seems to be an unwritten rule for the traditional narration to leave a space for the viewers to think more about what he could do with the contour and texture of the game. And leave the gossip to vloggers.

Cultures and politics tend to play a great part in the storytelling happening on-screen.

Major broadcasting companies based in major countries would always shine their spotlight on the athletes from their own capital.

In the opening ceremonies, for example, it was obvious how there was no template to assure that each participating country would be given equal share of exposure. There were instances when a country, as its presence was being explained, was already out of camera range and another country was already hogging the camera and yet the descriptions about the country that had passed by continued on and on.

Which brings me to my issue: Was it the Filipino in me that got piqued during the opening rites? As the Philippine contingent marched into view, it seemed no words could be summoned said about our team. Then the words briskly came out: “The Philippines holds the dubious record….” I could not comprehend anymore what followed next, which was how the Philippines had already won medals but gold remained elusive, because I found myself hanging on to the word “dubious.”

Not “interesting,” not “amusing” (still derogatory), not “unusual” but “dubious.” The word connotes an uncertainty but grooving towards the dark and negative. The word brings you into the domain of “shady” and “suspicious.”

But we survived that opening.

After nearly a hundred years not getting the gold, we could not but be confident about this batch of athletes. This time, they are breaking the bad spell, or curse? Oh, yes, the whole thing is getting to be more cosmic (the universe is against us) and personal (what is wrong with us?).

Then Hidilyn Diaz lifts that weight. She wins! She gets the gold! She breaks a record. And this is really terrifically Pinoy—Hidilyn beats China!

Well, the rest is not only history; the rest is cosmic and personal. The universe has listened to us. This winning is also about us.

Overnight, we all become weightlifters. Overnight, we start to bask in the sunshine of a woman’s winning. The win has turned into a gender issue. The women across the aisle begin claiming supremacy over men. It is as if weightlifting is not a game anymore but a construct about relationships and equality.

Then, we realized it is not just Hidilyn who is there in Tokyo. There are the other athletes. Nesthy Petecio (boxing), Carlos Yulo (gymnastics) EJ Obiena (pole vault), Eumir Marcial, Carlo Paalam (boxing) and many more. Let us not forget the skateboard charmer, Margielyn Didal.

They are to us all medalists. 

The games continue in Tokyo. Covid-19 cases have surged.

Hidilyn is back in the country, a rule being enforced in the Olympics. Once your event is done, you have to leave Japan. The pandemic is behind the urgency of this rule.

The news about Hidilyn continues. She is getting millions and, so far, except those whose affliction is to rain on other people’s parade, the nation is happy for her. We are happy because the China issue has seeped into the story of Hidilyn’s triumph. We love talking about this aspect of her victory.

We, however, cannot be just celebrating. We need to talk about other matters outside athletics. We are burdened so much by the pressure to prove to the world that we can be as good as them because we feel like these athletes, whose support from the government remains negligible. For every athlete bemoaning about the lack of concern from the country’s leaders is a Filipino desperate about the lack of action on the part of the government and the leaders to protect him from the deadly virus. In that arena, we cannot win any medal.

Image courtesy of AP

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