Watching the Olympics the past 2 weeks like millions across the globe it always makes me cry, laugh, shout and barrack. I am not usually a sport nut, but this is one time in 4 years where I will watch as much of it as I can. Despite almost reaching Olympia-burnout, I am still going. This is for many reasons. It is amazing to see how human beings, often in conflict, in war and at odds with each other, can come together as one. It is amazing to see people who come from countries who have extreme problems, still able to find it possible to send an athlete to the Olympics. It is amazing to see a woman from Saudi Arabia finish her race and notice an entire nation making huge steps forwards simply by seeing her very large steps as she crosses the line. It is amazing to see the emotions and passion that show in the faces of so many as they win, lose, try, battle and collapse.
On the flip side of all this emotion, joy and tears, lies the sad fact that there are a few countries in the world who can pour millions of dollars into the process, which creates athletes who simply expect to win. Then there are those who have no money and simply expect to do the very best they can with what they have. I am still one who believes professional athletes and “dream teams” should not be competing in the Olympics. This event should not highlight the difference in the have’s and the have not’s, but create an even playing field. Sadly it misses this mark.
Watching all of this play out like a mini version of our world reminds me also how ordinary people push themselves to the limit and then some, it reminds you what we are capable of. It reminds you that beyond sport there are many warriors and champions. Many who go unnoticed and unheard. Take the mother caring for a sick child. Cleaning up their vomit. Keeping vigil. Sitting by their bed all night and making sure they are not too hot, not too cold, not needing anything, despite her own illness. The man who goes to a job he hates every day to support his family who mean everything to him and still manages a smile when he greets his children each day. The woman who must walk miles along a hot, dusty track just to get water which may or may not be clean. The family living in their car as they have lost everything they own. The people who live life without eyes, ears, hands, or legs, who must work so very hard to do tasks many of us take for granted. Watch the parents who have little money make sure their children have enough. And on a personal note, take a person with diabetes who each and every day of their lives may look like smooth sailing on the surface, but there is a hell of a lot of paddling going on under the surface to execute the most simple of daily tasks.
Humans are amazing. We are simply the most wonderful and the most terrifying things. We can do so much yet we can also do so little. We can push ourselves and we can sit on the sidelines. Those of us with no choice but to go the extra mile, those who are not born privileged, who have disability, chronic disease, poverty, violence or isolation to deal with, we are true champions. We are the Olympians of life.
Shortly the Olympics will be closing. But there will begin a magical event. That of the people who can already consider themselves our heroes, winning races is not the main point.
Bring on the Paralympics.