Every two years I tell myself I’m not watching. After all, isn’t the Opening Ceremony kind of the same each time? Yes, some are better than others, but it’s usually a history lesson done to music with lots (and lots and lots) of movie extras. But then comes that moment. Those stadium doors open and there they are…
Each of them is more fit, beautiful and glowing than the next. They mug for the cameras. They take “selfies” and march proudly, some in tears. Many wave to family and friends in the stands. Some take it in quietly. Others band together laughing.
This is their moment. And what’s incredible is how many of these kids came from tough backgrounds. They fought, trained, and pulled themselves up from incredible odds to be here.
But it’s also the world’s moment. This amazing spectacle is also for us.
We watch as each country offers up their best and brightest. “This is our future,” we seem to say to each other. “Here’s our youth. Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t we all so proud?”
For a short, rare time, we see each other close-up. And one thing becomes apparent. While our skin colors, flags, and costumes are different, our laughter, smiles and hugs are the same.
We all belong to the human family.
This is why the Olympics are so much more than sports.
The Olympics, whether winter or summer, are the world’s biggest block party and the whole neighborhood’s invited. I can’t think of any other event that brings everyone on the planet together in such a peaceful, joyful and moving way.
No one country comes first. No one’s more special or most important. (Except the host nation, which is only right since they supply the “chips and dip”). We hear many national anthems. We watch many winning athletes proudly place their hand over their heart.
(And speaking of countries, how can there still be some I’ve never heard of – Kiribati? Vanuatu? Tuvalu? Living in one of the largest, most boisterous nations on earth, I can’t conceive of a place so quiet and modest. It’s mind-boggling).
What touches me most are nations once at war now parading together. Germany walks with France and England. North and South Korea are in the same arena. The U.S. takes part with Japan, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It reminds me of that Warner Bros. cartoon where the wolf and sheep dog are ferocious rivals during the day. But at quitting time, they clock out and walk home together.
During these weeks, the planet seems to take a break from the hell and chaos that reign here. Instead, everyone chills and grabs a beer. It’s about watching young people at the height of their powers. And in some way we’re allowed to be kids again too.
And yes, there’s a dark side to the games. The Rio torch almost didn’t make it. Protests dogged the city right till the last minute. There’s always fear of terrorism. There’s always accusations of corruption, graft and politics.
Reality lies outside, waiting, always.
But for now you can almost feel everyone holding their breath. Please let this go well. Please let us have this moment.
I can’t help think of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson… “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Stevenson wrote that in nature, the color gold is fleeting, found briefly on a fall leaf or a beautiful sunset. Gold appears, but never lasts.
For me, the Olympics are those special times. They teach us what we’re capable of, if only for a glimpse. The Olympics are our golden moments.
Every two years, I’m grateful.
And proud once again to be part of the human family.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Louis Stevenson
What are your thoughts on the Olympics? I’d love to hear and if you like, please share. Thank you!