Rio Olympics 2016: Things I Will and Will Not Miss


I was greatly looking forward to the Rio Olympics. As expected, it has been a wonderful escape from the grinding heat of the Jamaican summer and an excuse to stay at home on the couch with cups of tea. But now I feel I have had enough. I want to get back to sports-free days – apart from the English Premier League’s new season, which has just got under way. Go Gunners!

Looking back at the Games – the media coverage, the social media – I realize there are things I did really enjoy, and others I didn’t. Here’s my quick list of likes and dislikes:

The positives:

The beautiful energy of the host city and its people, the Cariocas. I spent one week in Rio a few years back, and would love to return and explore some more. There was so much negative publicity (the Zika virus, etc) ahead of the Games, but much of it seems to have evaporated as the events progressed.

Dusk descends on the new mural depicting members of the Olympic Refugee Team. (Photo: Getty Images)
Dusk descends on the new mural depicting members of the Olympic Refugee Team. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Refugee Team: When they appeared at the Opening Ceremony, there was a lump in my throat. The team of six men and four women includes athletes competing in swimming, judo and athletics. Five are from South Sudan, two from Syria, two from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Ethiopia. To commemorate their presence in Rio, Brazilian artists have painted a beautiful portrait of each one of them on the wall of the Olympic Boulevard. As artist Rodrigo Sini said: There is no medal that justifies the pleasure or the weight each of them carries, for the story each of them has, for the determination and courage they all had when they had to abandon their home countries to restart their lives somewhere else.”

Nimble Ms. Simone Biles.
Nimble Ms. Simone Biles.
A Bahamian baton change. What speed! (Photo: Twitter)
A Bahamian baton change. What speed! (Photo: Twitter)

The beautiful bodies: Well, hammer throwers aren’t exactly svelte, but still impressive in their own way. There were nimble gymnasts; slender divers (I got a rather perverse thrill watching them showering afterwards); the strong, graceful underwater movements of the swimmers; tall, slender high jumpers; and the sprinters’ muscle-packed physique. There was plenty to admire. A sort of ode to the human body, its power and symmetry. I was in awe of their skill, their coordination – and their beauty.

South African gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk and his mother
South African gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk and his mother Odessa Swarts – also a runner, who participated in non-racial, non-apartheid sport under the South African Council on Sport, but was not allowed to compete internationally.

The athletes themselves and their stories. I always find this the most inspiring part of the Olympics. These men and women have arrived from all over the world, carrying their personal stories with them. South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk broke the World Record in the men’s 400 metres and his mother Odessa Swarts was so proud of him; she was a world-class runner herself but was not able to compete under apartheid. There are so many others, of overcoming huge challenges and struggling to reach Rio.

Dislikes:

Tennis player Andy Murray wraps himself in the flag...
British tennis player Andy Murray wraps himself in the flag…

The persistent flag-waving – quite often accompanied by the “my country is better than yours” attitude – or even ” [Insert country name here] is the best country in the world! The Olympics is supposed to promote global peace and unity, but many supporters (especially those commenting online) don’t seem to have caught that spirit. I find excessive patriotism – including the dissing of individual athletes, who have worked their hearts out to get there – so unpleasant, wherever it is coming from.

Yulia Efimova of Russia in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter breaststroke. She had initially been banned but was given the go ahead to compete at Rio just before the Games started. (Photo:Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)
Yulia Efimova of Russia in a preliminary heat in the 200-meter breaststroke. She had initially been banned but was given the go ahead to compete at Rio just before the Games started. (Photo:Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

The cloud of doping: This was hanging on the horizon even before the Games started. The New York Times reported that at least 120 athletes in Rio had prior suspensions for doping – from close to one third of the country delegations. Swimmer Yulia Efimova was booed whenever she competed. Justin Gatlin was also booed. It’s depressing, and complex, and it certainly detracts from the world of sports.

Gold medal winner Omar McLeod (centre) with Sports Minister Olivia Grange and Prime Minister Andrew Holness before his race in Rio. (Photo: Andrew Holness/Twitter)
Gold medal winner Omar McLeod (centre) with Sports Minister Olivia Grange and Prime Minister Andrew Holness before his race in Rio. (Photo: Andrew Holness/Twitter)

Random incidents of unpleasantness: One, the strange episode of the American swimmers, who apparently fabricated a robbery and have now brought themselves into disrepute and embarrassed the United States, their fellow competitors and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Secondly and on the local front, a single one-word tweet clouded the excitement over Omar McLeod’s emphatic gold medal in the 110 meters hurdles. Happily, this was swiftly dealt with, and celebrations could continue. Another one that left a bad taste in one’s mouth was Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of Israeli Or Sasson after a judo match. El Shehaby was sent home.

Residents of the Mangueira favela watch the Opening Ceremony from a rooftop. So near, and yet so far away. (Photo: Reuters)
Residents of the Mangueira favela watch the Opening Ceremony fireworks in the Maracana Stadium from a rooftop. So near, and yet so far away. (Photo: Reuters)

The social exclusion: It worried me to see acres of empty seats in the athletics stadium and other venues (which only appeared reasonably full when Usain Bolt was running). Were the tickets too expensive? If there were unsold seats, why not organize groups of local schoolchildren (some of whom may well be budding sportsmen/women), disabled persons and other groups who would not have the opportunity, to fill them? Photographs of residents of the poverty-stricken favelas looking down on the brilliantly lit stadium from their hillside made me sad. Ticket prices for the opening ceremony ranged from about $63 to $1,400. A minimum-wage worker in Brazil takes home around $55 a week.

Well then. Time to wrap up now. Time to go home, everyone. See you again, God’s willing, in 2020 in Tokyo. And let us all get back to “normal.”

The "Triple Triple" man, Usain Bolt. (Photo tweeted by Cristiano Ronaldo on Twitter)
The “Triple Triple” man, Usain Bolt. (Photo tweeted by Cristiano Ronaldo)
Yona Knight-Wisdome was so excited at reaching the semi-finals in the Olympics. He did SO well! (Photo: Twitter)
Yona Knight-Wisdome was so excited at reaching the semi-finals in the Olympics. He did SO well! (Photo: Twitter)
Congratulations to the marvelous Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson, the first woman to win the 100 meters and 200 meters gold medals for the first time in 28 years.
Congratulations to the marvelous Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson, the first woman to win the 100 meters and 200 meters gold medals for the first time in 28 years.

 


2 thoughts on “Rio Olympics 2016: Things I Will and Will Not Miss

  1. Emma, I so agree with you but I think say the best country and better is all in the spirit of competition which is part of the Olympic spirit. My biggest pet peeve is the US ( NBC) and Canadian Channels (CBC) that have the exclusive rights to broadcast the games. What a prejudice!!! NBC only show the gold medals to the US girls but nothing else to the other ladies and CBC focus so much on Andre, the REAL champion got lost!!

    I think Andre has potential and will be great in 2020 but NOW is Mr. Usain Bolt time and I find myself at work here in Canada with Bolt all over my office and people asking me bout Andre. I tell them let Bolt retire with ALL the accolades – then we focus on Andre AFTER!!

    Like

    1. Many broadcasters do the same thing – not only US and Canada. I hear the BBC was focusing almost entirely on British athletes. It happens. Actually I enjoyed the ESPN Caribbean coverage – it always highlighted the Caribbean competitors but was fairly balanced otherwise I think. Mr. Bolt will not be at the 2020 Olympics so I guess it’s his time right now. Yes, surely the young ones will follow! But four years is a long time… Some more youth might come up during that time!

      Like

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