When the international community comes together for the Olympic Games, something emulating cooperation and love among all nations takes place. Or at least that is the goal. Scandals, politics and obvious unfairness detract from that goal. Surely international organizations like the United Nations, Red Cross, and many others, play a more important role than games do. But the Olympics do some things that these others do not.
For one thing, they are visual, easy to understand, non-political, and popular. Millions of people in all parts of the world follow them with interest. It is unfortunate that the Olympics this year were viewed by fewer Americans than in other years.
Secondly, although large nations have clear advantages, this is a stage where athletes from any part of the world can compete on something resembling an equal footing. The advantages in the winter Olympics often have more to do with geography than population, with countries like Norway, Austria and Switzerland traditionally excelling despite their small size.
Thirdly, the athletes themselves are graceful, interesting, beloved figures, often with remarkable histories. They lead viewers to see the positive and good qualities of the athletes from every part of the world and to love them.
Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, one of the chief human qualities on display at the Olympics is effort. The athletes are doing things that amaze the viewers with their strength, skill, willpower and endurance.
Now that this year’s games are over we can reflect back on lessons learned and goals achieved. We now know names that we may not have known before a few weeks ago, like Erin Jackson, who won the gold in speed skating, and Nathan Chen in figure skating. Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner were the first pair to earn Team USA a medal in mixed team snowboard cross. Jessie Diggins earned Team USA their first ever medal in cross-country skiing, and Elana Meyers Taylor made Olympics history after clinching her fourth and fifth medals in Beijing in the bobsled competition.
The lessons learned from doping scandals, politics and the continuing interference of the pandemic will hopefully lead to future improvements. In any case there are lessons for all of us in these kinds of things.