This was supposed to be a week of celebration in Tokyo. Japan would be opening its doors to the world and launching the 32nd Olympiad in the capital.
Instead, the postponement of the Games amid the Covid-19 pandemic means the wait goes on before new Olympic heroes emerge, unfamiliar sports captivate and legendary Olympic moments are made.
There is much to look forward to if and when the Games do begin on July 23, 2021, but it makes us long for what we missed this summer even more.
Biles cementing her legend
Four years ago in Rio, American artistic gymnast Simone Biles won four gold medals and a bronze, becoming one of the stars of the Games.
This was the summer when Biles was to cement her status as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, gymnast of all-time – as some have called her already.
Her dominance in the sport is akin to American Olympic sporting greats like Michael Phelps, Allyson Felix and Jenny Thompson.
At the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart last year, Biles completed a record-breaking clean sweep of gold medals in all five of her gymnastic disciplines for the first time in her career.
She is unbeaten in the all-around since 2013. Her dominance is unparalleled.
Biles had always maintained she would retire after this summer’s Games and, in April, the 23-year-old was not fully committing to taking part in the delayed Games. She is, however, now back in the gym. A Biles-less Olympics would not quite be the same.
Who will be the next Phelps?
Mark Spitz’s tally of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics was an achievement few thought would ever be surpassed.
That was until Michael Phelps splashed onto the scene.
Phelps managed six golds medals and two bronze at Athens in 2004. Spitz could rest easy for a little longer. But four years later, in Beijing, Phelps won a magnificent eight gold medals.
Spitz didn’t mind being bested, saying: “It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time.”
Over the next two Olympic Games, in London and Rio, Phelps took his Olympic career total to 23 golds, three silvers and two bronze medals.
Phelps is now retired, and while it seems unthinkable that anyone will ever top his Olympic medal tally, who will fill his shoes as the figurehead of swimming?
The signs point to Caeleb Dressel.
At the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, Dressel won six gold medals and two silvers, breaking Phelps’ 10-year world record in the final of the 100-meter butterfly by 0.32 seconds.
Dressel may not race in the same range of events as Phelps, but he could well be Phelps’ successor as American swimming’s next great.
New and returning sports
With every edition of the Olympic Games, new sports are welcomed to the fray.
For Tokyo, five sports have been added to the schedule. Karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding will be making their Olympic debuts, while baseball and softball return after a 12-year absence.
Much has been made of skateboard’s addition, owing to the celebrity of 12-year-old prodigy Sky Brown.
But the inclusion of all of these sports is huge to their respective international status.
Speaking to CNN’s Amanda Davies in an Instagram Live interview, Australian surfing superstar Sally Fitzgibbons said that the sport’s inclusion was key to showcasing it to new audiences.
“There’ll be some people tuning in … they would have never considered it; they would have never probably seen the beach or picked up a board and to be able to have that opportunity as a sport to showcase that is fantastic,” she said.
Fitzgibbons added that surfing’s addition was a sign of the Games modernizing and showing a willingness to “move with the times.”
Can Bolt be replaced?
Usain Bolt has been, arguably, the face of the Olympics since his showstopping performances in Beijing. So, the big question is: Can anyone replace the record-breaking showman?
The two foremost sprinters in the world at the moment are Americans Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles. Coleman is the reigning 100-meter world champion and Lyles the 200m world champion.
Coleman is currently provisionally suspended for missing a third drug test in a 12-month period. It could lead to a two-year ban, which would rule him out of next year’s Games.
Anime fan Lyles, on the other hand, could be the man for the job.
Lyles’ start-line histrionics have led to him being described as a “rock star” by USA teammate Justin Gatlin.
The 23-year-old recently made headlines for appearing to have run a world-record 18.9-second 200m, only for replays to show he had instead run just 185m.
He may well break Bolt’s 19.19 second record in Tokyo though.
Mo’s quest for a three-peat
Having claimed a double-double in the 5,000m and 10,000m in Rio, Mo Farah set his sights on marathon running.
However, Farah’s announcement last year that he will defend his 10,000m title sets up a thrilling storyline as he attempts to become the first person to achieve the 10,000m Olympic three-peat.
Farah has been at the center of controversy in recent years, with his former coach Alberto Salazar, from whom he split in 2017, banned for four years for “multiple anti-doping rule violations.”
If the Briton can win a third 10,000m Olympic gold in Tokyo, he will enhance his standing as a great of long-distance running.