There’s so much to admire about the Olympics, it’s difficult to know where to begin, but we will put this at the top of what would be a very long list: Every two years, the Games — rotating between the Winter and Summer — return to remind this planet’s nearly 7 billion residents that people of all color, poor or rich and in between, culture and religion can come together for a couple of weeks and get along just dandy.
In London now, where the XXX Olympiad is entering the last leg of its two-week run, about 10,500 athletes have gathered to compete for approximately 4,700 medals — gold, silver and bronze — in athletic competitions ranging from events as contrived as synchronized diving to those as traditional as gymnastics and track. Americans are rubbing shoulders with Iranians, Muslims with Jews, and Germans with Russians, sharing tears, both of sadness and celebration, and then when the competition is done, congratulations and condolences are extended.
The athletes suggest the noble qualities about mankind, with mostly young people who have single-mindedly endeavored to bring home the gold, a quest that requires years of training, immense sacrifice, and the luck and fortitude that can summon all that is required at precisely the right moment in time. Many more go home empty-handed than weighed down by a medal, but the satisfaction is achieved in the pursuit.
It is estimated that the Olympic broadcasts can reach 3.8 billion people, two-thirds of the Earth’s renters, and that at any single moment as many as 1 billion people are watching the competitions unfold. If we could squeeze them all into a single room, that shared experience would suffice as an ice-breaker.
In the United States, there’s been plenty to see as the athletic competitions are split among a handful of networks, presented live during the day and on taped delay during the night. While the competitions are intense, with fractions of a second deciding the winners in swimming and millimeters making the difference in archery, what we find most compelling are the stories of the athletes, and the challenges that have been overcome on their journey to London.
They are inspiring — and reminders that while we Earthlings are separated by oceans, mountains, man-drawn boundaries, ideologies, religions and governments, our differences are tiny when stacked aside the ways we are all alike.