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Plan B Olympics

There’s a joke in Twitter that the most useless purchase people made last year was buying a 2020 planner. And as someone who did exactly that and now finds that same planner (the kind you can only get from buying overpriced coffee) gathering dust on a bookshelf in my room, I couldn’t agree more. Most of the pages in my planner remain blank, and almost every goal I wrote down at the start of the year remains unfulfilled, including one that I thought would be realized at around this time.

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to write for the local broadcast of the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics. “Did you really go to Brazil?” my friends asked, to which I would answer, “No, but my script did.” As I watched the parade of thousands of athletes at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, as I heard the bits of trivia that I had written about the participating nations being read on TV, a plan formed and eventually took hold in my head: I had to watch the Olympics live. And my family had to be there with me.

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I learned that the Summer Olympics would be in Tokyo in 2020, Paris in 2024, and Los Angeles in 2028. There was no way I could afford to go to Paris or Los Angeles with my family, I thought, even if the events were still years away. If I was going to watch the world’s largest and foremost athletic competition, it had to be in Tokyo, and I had four years to save up for it.

I bought and filled coin banks, took part-time writing jobs to supplement my income, and even managed to mostly dodge the trap that is visiting malls on weekend sales. By the start of the year, I had saved enough to make the trip and hopefully fulfill this dream. It wasn’t exactly how I pictured it, since I didn’t have enough to watch the Opening Ceremony itself, but I would be in Tokyo with my family as it hosted the Olympics, and that was enough.

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As someone who works in sports, part of the appeal of covering any athletic event, whether it was attended by thousands or only by the athletes’ relatives and a handful of fans, was the chance to witness history. To see something that hasn’t been done before. And no event offers a better opportunity to rewrite the record books than the Olympics. Specifically, I was hoping to witness a Filipino athlete claim our first Olympic gold medal. There were several athletes capable of pulling this off, such as weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won silver in Rio four years ago; gymnast Carlos Yulo, fresh from a dominant performance in the Southeast Asian Games; or one of our boxers—a sport that has given the country half of its 10 Olympic medals.

At least that was the plan. But as my planner can attest, 2020 isn’t exactly the best year for plans.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was supposed to take place from July 23 to Aug. 8, until the COVID-19 pandemic said otherwise. The Olympics was pushed back to the summer of 2021, the first time the entire event had been postponed.

The postponement of the Olympics offers a glimmer of hope that we can still make it to Tokyo, but as COVID-19 continues to infect more people in the country while dealing a serious blow to our economy, an overseas trip and a mere item to check off on my planner have become the least of our worries. It’s hard to plan for the future when there’s so much uncertainty in the present. No one knows what our country and the world will look like next month, let alone the summer of 2021.

Will the Olympics allow spectators once it opens next year? Will Filipinos be allowed entry into other countries by then? What about my parents, who are both senior citizens and high-risk individuals? Can they make the trip with us? And with our own jobs affected by the pandemic, the money we had saved for the trip is now being used for our daily expenses. As someone who is used to planning and setting goals for the future, my contingency is frighteningly simple by contrast: Just survive today, then the next day, then the day after that. And maybe move to Pasig when this is over. There’s a saying that if you want to make God laugh, just tell him about your plans. Because no one sets out with a plan that doesn’t succeed, or one beset with many challenges. Deathcab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard once compared plans to “tiny prayers to Father Time,” something that is less set in stone and more of a wish without a definite outcome. Leave it to the pandemic to make sure that a lot of those wishes didn’t come true this year.

How soon we can resume pursuing our plans, goals, and dreams is tied directly to how quickly our country can win the fight against COVID-19. So in the meantime, we enact our Plan B. Instead of setting our eyes on the future, we try to live for the present. Instead of planning for career advancement and economic stability, we plan our survival. Instead of realizing our dreams, we try to hold on to them.

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Immanuel L. Canicosa, 27, is a writer and producer for One Sports (formerly ESPN5), the sports department of TV5, and a graduate student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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TAGS: Immanuel L. Canicosa, Olympics, Summer Olympics 2020, Young Blood
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