Every four years, the international Olympics inspires the world in anticipation of joyful coexistence. The games provide a respite from global conflict, sovereign ambitions, and societal turmoil. Friendly competition fairly officiated, allowing the youth of different cultures to test their abilities without retribution is the Olympic standard. It is as if the Olympic platform was the manifestation of what could be if citizens of all countries recognized the munificent attributes of all cultures.
The Olympics of 2020, however, did not generate hopeful reprieve from the pressures of everyday life. COVID postponed the celebration for one year. Spectators, including athletes’ families, were prohibited. Several major countries in the world, including both the United States and China, were experiencing internal strife. It was not clear to what extent protests might emerge during the games. There was little confidence that Japan as a host country could manage the process without friction. The viewer apprehension caused the TV audience to be less than projected.
People were tired of bad news and reluctant to experience any more.
Yet, the games proved the fears unwarranted.
The youth of the world gave their all. They found the joy that comes from committing every honest ounce of one’s fiber to an effort, and therein finding fulfillment in giving their best. Their achievements were not based in any way on destroying or denigrating anyone else. They simply took their God-given talent and gave it back to all of us through their unselfish, sacrificing, and respectful performances.
For the love of the games, they were unified as athletes, exemplified sportsmanship, demonstrated pride in their countries, were happy for each other in their successes, and personified a collaborative spirit.
The men respected the women. The women respected the men. They all cheered for each other from the stands. They embraced each other in “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The LGBTQ community assimilated without incident. There was no distinction noted between sexual orientations. Religious beliefs were not only tolerated but accepted. And, the government of Japan did a most excellent job of putting on the Olympics in extraordinary times and under difficult circumstances.
In addition to the theater of actual competition, other salient issues affecting society were uncharacteristically addressed. Recognizing mental health, the need for family in a vacuum, cities as components of a nation demonstrating allegiance to the athletes, and politicians taking a backseat were instruments of moral emotions consummated.
President Biden’s spontaneous address to the U.S. athletes was, “We are so damn proud of you!”
The Olympians lived and operated in a bubble. The Economist magazine would call this a panopticon environment: a confined area wherein everyone has a line of sight to everyone else.
In such a protocol, the athlete delegations instinctively realized that the rules were the same for everyone. That certain emotions are the same for each individual regardless of culture. That in doing one’s best while respecting one’s opponent, a collegial result is the same dividend. That when everyone does their best, the collective talent contributes to the overall good of the community. That feeling and showing respect for one’s country is okay. That loving your family and one another is not only normal, but coveted.
The Tokyo Olympics will be remembered as the possibility games.
In assaying the 2020 Olympics, may the possibility of the games be prologue for the possibility of society.
My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.
What do you believe?