The Olympic Games are held every four years – you know it’s an Olympic year if the year is divisible by 4. So how come it’s 2021? Covid-19 meant that the games in Tokyo last year had to be postponed.
So tonight is the eve of the Olympic Games and although there will be hugely scaled-down attendance – participants, officials and some journalists only- it’s still a really exciting event. The whole country will start discussing minority sports with some expertise.
The opening ceremonies will involve only a very small delegation of athletes. We will watch our Olympians, Boxers Kellie Harrington, competing for the first time and Brendan Irvine, who fought at the Rio Games who have been chosen as the Team Ireland flag bearers. For the first time each country is being asked to have two flag bearers in the parade of nations, one male and one female.
In my storytelling household, I had heard of Jesse Owens’ great success in the 1936 Berlin Games. His 4 gold medals caused consternation to the Nazi party who presided over the games. Irishman Ronnie Delaney’s gold medal win in the Men’s 1500 metres in the 1956 Melbourne games was also a sporting highlight to be celebrated. It was many years later before I realised that we had won many medals.
I got hooked on the Olympics of 1984, ‘running’ the streets of Los Angeles with John Treacy in the Men’s Marathon and watching him being presented with his silver medal.
Barcelona, 1992 coincided sadly with a family death and my memory is returning to Wexford from the funeral, getting a double puncture and being unable to find an open garage – everyone was watching the boxers (either Michael Carruth winning gold or Wayne McCullough winning silver).
The excitement of the 1996 Atlanta games was unbelievable – night after night I watched Michelle Smith progress through heats and eventually win three gold and one bronze.
Two years after Atlanta, Smith was charged with adulterating an out of competition sample and received a four year ban. Despite continuing to plead her innocence through the process, she never swam again. She never tested positive for a banned substance.
Sidney 2000 was Sonia O’Sullivan games; three boxers medalled in Beijing 2008; London 2012 saw boxing victories with Katie Taylor the star; Rob Heffernan took bronze in the 50Km walk; unfortunately Cian O’Connor’s bronze in the Showjumping again brought us into ill-repute with a doping accusation.
The O’Donovan brothers “pulling like dogs” charmed us with their humorous interviews having won silver in the lightweight sculls in Rio in 2016 and Annalise Murphy also won silver in the water, sailing.
And now another Games begins, with Ireland’s largest delegation ever – what stories will we have from them?