McAvaney: What you won’t see at the Olympics ever again



A year from now, the world will tune in to celebrate the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, 2021.

If they are still on.

With soaring coronavirus infection rates and lockdowns across the world, the only certainty is uncertainty.

At a recent news conference, IOC president Thomas Bach said an Olympic Games behind closed doors was not something they wanted but " we are working for a solution that safeguards the health of all the participants and is also reflecting of the Olympic spirit."

Bruce McAvaney, who has worked on every Summer Olympics since 1984, expects to know imminently whether he will be calling the Games for Channel 7 next year.

"Tokyo is well organised. We expected that and we expect to see technological innovation that will take our breath away. If the Games are to be cancelled, I think we will get an indication soon," he tells The BINGE Guide.



Bruce McAvaney has worked at every Summer Games since 1984. Picture: Supplied
Bruce McAvaney has worked at every Summer Games since 1984. Picture: Supplied


"If they are forced to cancel it will be in everyone's best interest and I'm talking about the athletes and their federations, as well as the Japanese organisers and indeed every industry and service involved in the logistics of staging such a huge event."

If the Games do go ahead, McAvaney says a rescheduled Tokyo Olympics would actually be a chance to bring the world together, post-pandemic.

"Nationalities mingling and interacting. Travellers from all over the world. I don't think any future Olympics will be quite that carefree. And yet, how wonderful it would be if we know, by that time, that we have some kind of shield against the pandemic, and more effective treatments. In such a scenario, the Olympic Games will be overwhelming in their significance. It'll be monumental."

With the unpredictable nature of the virus making it impossible to say definitively that the Games will happen, the veteran broadcaster headlines Seven's special presentation of Sydney 2000: Moments That Moved Us.



Cathy Freeman ignites the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Picture: AP
Cathy Freeman ignites the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Picture: AP


Marking 20 years since Australia last hosted the Games, the anniversary special will bring together presenters and former athletes who starred back then, in one way or another.

McAvaney and Sunrise sports anchor Mark Beretta will be joined by Johanna Griggs, Dennis Cometti, Pat Welsh, Lord Sebastian Coe, Tamsyn Manou and Raelene Boyle.

Swimming superstars Ian Thorpe, Susie O'Neill, Grant Hackett, Kieren Perkins, Michael Klim, Bill Kirby and Todd Pearson, as well as international track stars Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon and Michael Johnson have also added their voice to the production.

Recalling his own Sydney highlights, McAvaney says: "I think it would be hard for any Australian to go past the Opening Ceremony - an interpretation of Australian culture, a glimpse of history, the Olympic traditions."

"For me, it was seeing right in front of me a physical timeline of the country's greatest athletes and the passing of the flame into the hands of Catherine Freeman. What a weight she carried on her shoulders and it would only be relieved a few days later on that magical Monday night when all the planning and hard work, and dreams and aspirations, came together on the track."


Madam Butterfly Susie O'Neill. Picture: Supplied
Madam Butterfly Susie O'Neill. Picture: Supplied




Australia's Sydney heroes have some advice for those heading to Tokyo on how to make their dreams come true, but McAvaney is looking forward to how the new sports will play out.

"In Tokyo, sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate are new and we'll see the return of baseball and softball," he explains.

"So there will be new champions and in some cases, very young champions. In surfing and skateboarding particularly, I think we'll do very well, and I would love to see how those medallists respond to being on the Olympic stage."

Each Olympics produces a 'supreme' athlete and talk until now has been around the US gymnast Simone Biles.

McAvaney adds: "Without a Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps for the first time this century, I'm also looking for a champion to emerge on the track and in the pool."

* Towards Tokyo: Olympic Games Sydney 2000: Moments That Moved Us, 9.15pm, Tuesday, Seven and 7plus

Originally published as McAvaney: What you won't see at the Olympics ever again