They entered the Olympic Stadium with such majesty. The music resounded in pomp and circumstance style, ushering in athletes from around the world; all races, all colors, all genders, all cultures; a metaphor for unity within humanity. Black athletes marched in European teams. White athletes marched in African teams. A Latino marched with the Irish team. Athletes of the United Arab Emirates waved the Japanese flag along with that of their own nation. Excellence came in all shades colors, and genders. The honor of flagbearer was shared equally by women paired with men. As I sat before the TV, both the verbal and visual messages of the Opening Ceremonies clearly described sports as a unifying power of peace and hope.
I’ve stopped binge-watching politics, racism and covid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m keeping up with the news, but I’m focusing more on programs that keep me uplifted and feeling hopeful for the world we live in. This past week, I binged on athletes celebrating pride in their own achievement, pride in country, and pride in the international community
These athletes had suffered the disappointment of a year-long delay. But they pushed through the uncertainty and isolation of the covid epidemic, staying the course, with determination, perseverance, dedication, and optimism. As such, they exhibited some of the best qualities of humanity, qualities that we all might emulate. While marching in a near-empty stadium, devoid of the customary cheering audience, they exuded their own excitement.
The Olympics represents competition with a heart connection that translates into respect. When Simone Biles began withdrawing from competition, acknowledging mental health issues that impaired the focus needed to compete safely and effectively, she shared her vulnerability. Her teammates surrounded her with loyalty and compassion. She gave onlookers the message that even the best among us can be vulnerable.
When Hashimoto Seiko and Thomas Bach, leaders of the IOC spoke, they espoused the positive role that sports plays in society. They emphasized the importance of solidarity and promoted the virtues of helping, sharing, and caring. Soto and Bach described unity, peace, and respect as the true essence of the Olympics, representing hope in bringing the world together. As I listened, I heard a symbolic message that we could incorporate in our country to heal the current divisiveness and bring us closer together.
In addition, the officials acknowledged a Refugee Team of athletes from 11 different nations, forced to flee their homelands. With compassion for their suffering, the importance of immigrants to society was affirmed. It was, for me, a vivid reminder of the challenges we face at our borders; compassion for those fleeing unspeakable hardship; acknowledgment of immigrants’ contributions to our nation’s history.
As the Opening Ceremonies were drawing to a close, the lights dimmed, and the innocent voices of a chorus of children filled the stadium with the song “Imagine” . . . “and the world will live as one.”
written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor resident blogger