This year’s Olympic Games finally came to a close last Sunday with a solemn and heartwarming ceremony. Amidst the great misery and chaos brought about by the global COVID -19 crisis, host Japan and the IOC boldly pushed through with the Tokyo Olympics. Not in disregard of the world’s efforts to contain the deadly virus, but to convey a message of hope, that humanity will work together and will survive this catastrophe.
In accepting the hosting of the 2020 Olympics way back in 2011, Japan simply wanted to convey a gesture of thanks to the global community. This was for extending a helping hand after the killer quake and tsunami that hit Eastern Japan earlier that year. Little did they know that they would be thrust into a leadership role; in providing the world poignant lessons in solidarity, in unity despite the diversity, and in strength amidst the adversity caused by this pandemic. COVID – 19 may have sown terror in our hearts, but we will not allow this virus to rule our lives. This year’s complex Olympics, played under harsh, unfamiliar conditions, has demonstrated that life can and must go on, even if we may need to follow new protocols under a new normal.
As the largest sporting extravaganza in the world ever, the Summer Olympics was in grave danger of being cancelled. It would have been so easy to justify its demise, were it not for the pride and resilience of the Japanese people. No. Japan saw the priceless value of the Games. Not just for itself, but for the world. Japan saw the need to embolden the spirit of humankind. The Games must go on! The Olympic Games would be mankind’s symbolic defiance against this ghastly pandemic, and only Japan could make this happen. (Please read: My Snappy Salute to Japan!)
Hashimoto Seiko, the tireless President of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, harped on the positive role of sports in society today. She stressed that the Olympics has been a great source of inspiration for all of humanity to see. And for 15 days, the world watched in awe as athletes from across the globe, plus the officials, the special staff, etc joined hands to give us a wonderful spectacle. Indeed, this year’s toned-down Olympics has demonstrated to the world that we must and can work as one.
The Tokyo Olympics gifted us with so many touching episodes in sportsmanship, in relationships nurtured amidst friendly strife, and above all, in our love and concern for our fellowmen. Forget the financial implications, forget achieving victory at all cost. It is in this Olympics that we have finally seriously learned to appreciate its modern-day objective “to bring the athletes around the world in one place where they can spread peace and friendship with no discrimination in race and gender”. This time, lesser focus was given on winning, but more so on how each of the athletes play the game.
The Olympics is teaching us what the world must learn to do today. As the epic challenges of COVID-19, global warming and climate change threaten us, as we suffer through the unforgiving hurricanes and typhoons, the sudden volcanic eruptions, the devastating tsunamis, the floods, the forest fires, the pollution and so on, there is a gnawing realization that these problems can no longer be solved by small, independent acts of selflessness.
There is a need for a paradigm shift, and we can emulate that from the Olympics’ indomitable spirit that will ensure that everyone wins and nobody loses. Today’s progressive ‘winning’ paradigm calls for ‘a world where no one is left behind’. We need to forge a shared future with shared responsibilities for everyone. In today’s bigger game of life, what matters now is that we do not survive and thrive at the expense of others. What matters now is no longer who wins the race, but how many of us will finish the race. We will finish, we will survive, but only if we work together; and thus win as humankind.
The Olympics – in a safe and carefree environment of friendly competition – is teaching us this valuable lesson in life. And if we do not heed this call, it is our children who will suffer the dire consequences. If only for this, I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to Japan for such a poignant lesson in humanity.
Allow me to re-echo the words I learned in my days in the Academy. It talks about sports, and how it provides lessons for the bigger struggles in life. From the PMA Cadets’ Prayer, it goes:
Teach us to make our play in every game,
Whether in mere sports or in life’s mightier struggles,
One where our desire to win is second only to our love for the game itself;
Where we triumph as considerate victors,
Or lose with grace and a determined will to win.
Sayonara, Tokyo, and thank you so much for the lessons learned.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover pic courtesy of dronedj.com. Other photos courtesy of: Kyodo News, NPR, chicagotribune.com, dailysabah.com, and mercurynews.com.