The Olympics

The nicest Olympics ever might not last beyond Tokyo. While Japan is a relatively uncontroversial host country (COVID-19 snafus notwithstanding), U.S. lawmakers have already started to call for moving the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics out of China in protest of the country’s treatment of its Uyghur minority population. Though it’s unlikely (but not unthinkable) that the U.S. will actually boycott the Games, there will almost certainly be ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China in the run-up, leading to extra attention, expectation, and weightiness whenever athletes from the opposing nations happen to meet on the slopes or in the rink.

Friendly Olympics probably don’t do as well as ones where Americans feellike their national honor is at stake — and while it’s too early to make any conclusions, the dismal viewership of the Games so far is likely at least in part due to the fact that camaraderie, not competition, seems to be the overriding theme.

But while Ledecky’s effusive sideline interview might not be a primetime producer’s cup of tea, there’s something refreshing about seeing athletes competing with such open appreciation and respect for each other. The niceties get at the heart of why we love the Games. Enjoy every hug while you can. (The Week, 28 July 2021)

My comment: Long live camaraderie! It’s good to see young people competing in a respectful and supportive way. Sport is all too often treated as an extension of international politics, and these Olympics seem to be about sport and individual, but friendly, rivalry. The incredible stress and expectations put upon the participants is another thing.

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