So many must have had the same thought. A frail shell, bristling with internecine rivalries, even as it emerges from the sweep of a plague-wind, puts on a world-wide show. The athletes in Tokyo perform in an extraordinary number of homes and public places across the globe. There is a warmth, for a couple of weeks, at the heart of the ramshackle business of who and what we are, a flame of driven excellence and effort, as if the fire of an ideal peeped through the miasmic wreckage of the strife and striving we are born and die with. As if a new day were possible. As if we could always, if we looked for it, find ourselves in the presence of a new way of doing things. Is it not in part what the Olympics are for? And this time we have the perfect image in the land of the rising sun.

Bleed, bleed, bleed. The same sun blinds our day as it always did. For two weeks there is a loyalty to tribe – and to something more. What we could be, what we could do. What we are, at heart, a skilled and loving people. Then the mirage of something different is wiped from the skies. It is as if the four-yearly reminder – a little late this time – had not been.

Bleed, bleed, bleed. The same old earth, the same old sun. What have we done with our inheritance? For two weeks there is a rivalry at once intense and unpernicious. Virtually everyone feels it. Then the abominable screams fill the stage again of power for power’s sake, and of all the suffering born of it.

Bleed, bleed. For two weeks the Games, that great bowl lit against the odds from a world-travelling torch, transcends our frailty even as it captures it – this time perhaps as never before. It was so close to being cancelled, so many athletes have been disqualified by Covid-contact, there was such an outcry in Japan itself against the staging. But for a fortnight the country will have offered a testimony as to what can be done. And who knows, the very frailty and strength of the undertaking may this time leave a legacy of its own.

This is all too wordy. But so many must have had the same thought while waiting for this event, or recalling that, and feeling the impetus gather. A lightning-flicker of a holistic meaning, perhaps better not put into words at all. But it will keep the heart alive.

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