Alan Hubbard

Well, are you being gripped by the Games? Viewed from afar, so far so good!

While it would be wrong to say that the home fires have been burning quite as fiercely as they did during Euro 2020, there is no doubt that as far as Britain is concerned the nation is aglow with the pride and passion that is a continuation of the uplifting spirit which engulfed us during the footy festival but so far without the ultimate disappointment and social disgrace.

Tokyo 2020 has been a revelation not only I suspect here but throughout the watching world. The Olympic spirit has bubbled forth and it may be that the reason why it has not yet quite scaled the heights of Europhoria is that the best is yet to come.

By this I mean that for many the real Olympic Games do not begin until this weekend when track and field comes under starter’s orders. This may seem unfair on those activities that have thrilled and entertained these past few days notably on the aquatic front but it is an essential truth that athletics is the discipline for which most Games are best remembered.

However, until the pistol is fired on Friday those conveniently, still "working at home", can sit back and savour what is a veritable kaleidoscope of sports. On one afternoon I counted no less than a dozen transmitted by the BBC within the space of four hours. From archery to skateboarding via badminton, boxing, tennis, surfing, hockey et al - you name it, a veritable feast for the sporting connoisseur.

Even so, as I say for some these are merely sideshows before the ultimate five ringed Circus comes into town with the running, jumping and throwing.

But as British medals continued to cascade in the nation’s best ever start to an Olympic Games how many were giving thanks to Tokyo for persevering amid the pandemic and insisting that the show must go on despite the reluctance, indeed downright hostility of the majority of the Japanese population?

Of course the cost has yet to be counted - and this will not be known until the number of fresh coronavirus cases is totted up alongside the medals tally.

Some early observations from the sofa suggest to this Olympic old timer that the Games are changing beyond recognition, with the emphasis so firmly on youth now that we are having to learn a whole new sporting vocabulary as activities such as mountain biking, street skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing take hold. The Olympics are becoming a whole new ball game - with or without a ball.

They say that in introducing new sports the International Olympic Committee is conscious, not only of the accent on youth but of the appeal to the television viewer. If the latter was the only criteria then surely by now cookery would be an Olympic event. Surf and turf maybe?

Our columnist says he has enjoyed viewing the first five days of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games from afar ©Getty Images
Our columnist says he has enjoyed viewing the first five days of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games from afar ©Getty Images

Of course not all of the more esoteric activities are new. I doubt I am alone in getting my head around the finer points of dressage, but even if dancing horses don’t grab you by the fetlocks the artistry can be appreciated as much as it can in gymnastics, though surely our equine friends should be awarded a medal too, or at least a deserved rosette!

Tokyo 2020, with all its innovations - and some depravations - has given the BBC the opportunity for a neatly compressed coverage accompanied by the introduction of new faces and voices on the commentary and punditry front.

Among the most impressive in helping us understand that taekwondo Is more than just living for kicks is the former two-time Olympic medallist Lutalo Muhammad, a highly personable, lucid young man obviously at ease before the camera and worth giving a more expansive role.

Such was his endearing emotion during one time team mate Bianca Walkden’s last second defeat in the final that he walked off the set - an act which obviously endeared him to viewers. The 30-year-old Muhammad held his head in sympathy and despair, having himself suffered a similar fate in the gold medal match at Rio four years ago.

There is no doubt that the Japanese have done a first rate job in the stage management of what many believed would be the Games that died of shame and instead made them something of a showpiece.

On a more serious note, one question which increasingly needs to be answered after the Games, following the withdrawal of America’s history-making gymnast Simone Biles and the reason given for it, is whether sport can seriously damage your mental health.

Taken alongside the current probes into the physical well-being of retired athletes suffering from dementia, not forgetting the scourge of drug taking - dope testing seems to have become secondary to coronavirus testing in Tokyo. Sport certainly has major issues with which to occupy itself once these most contentious of Games are done and dusted.

Now we await the week of athletic events which a so far triumphant Team GB hope will confirm them as a sporting superpower.

But don’t bet on them bringing as much golden glory as the so-called warm-up acts.

Meantime, bring on the hopscotch.