Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. July 23 - August 8, 2021. Games of the XXXII Olympiad.
This post serves as a personal reflection documenting long-winded emotions, conversational points and earned respect to all who lived/captured/experienced them.
I feel it important to write this for so many reasons, ones that go beyond athletic fandom. Yes, sports have been a part of my life since the beginning and they course through my veins. Yes, I spent most of my waking hours during those 17 days surrounded by Olympic coverage. Yes, I have and will continue to build an employment portfolio in athletics. But these Games were so much more.
Take it from this montage that concluded the coverage on August 8:
I watched that montage live and have watched it multiple times since. Tears filled my eyes each time. There's something so mesmerizing about watching people fulfill lifelong dreams and goals. There's something so breathtaking witnessing people experience the fine line between triumph and heartbreak. There's something so motivating about following and learning from people who have the ability to share their stories, setbacks and backgrounds.
All while going through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and a year-long postponement.
Can you imagine what these participants (event volunteers included) have gone through? What participants in and with sports that require such meticulous, body-specific and age-defining training where every single second, day, week, month and year weighs so heavily, have endured? Yet some media, be it on social media or other forms, mocked them.
One of the most common opinions I've come across, especially over the last few years, is that being open about mental health shows a sign of "copping out", "disgrace" or "letting others down." To touch on a specific example, there's only one Simone Biles; only one person who endures the pressure, attention and want for whatever "perfection" means 24/7 that Simone Biles has to; only one person who has lived the young life Simone Biles has (she's still only 24 years old, remember). This is the theme that plays true to anyone who chooses to use their platforms to speak up like Simone has, such as Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps, Kevin Love and so many others.
Since not one single person on this planet has experienced what she has, why are people so quick to point fingers or make judgements on matters they know nothing at all about? Your status doesn't make you more or less human than anyone else. That fact falls on deaf ears way too often. So a much-earned and respected thank you goes out to any Olympic participant who made mental health, their own or collectively, a priority and will continue doing so.
I cannot conclude this post without celebrating the women of these Olympics for their historic achievements on and off the playing surface:
"Tokyo 2020 was the first Olympics in which trans women were permitted to compete in women's categories, with Laurel Hubbard entering the women's super heavyweight weightlifting event.. Women competed in softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The new sports climbing events - speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing - all had men's and women's categories. Several sports, such as swimming, introduced mixed events.. The length of tennis matches were changed so that men played three sets, the same as women in all previous Olympics."
(percentage of all women, not just from Team USA)
(to name a few)
(how about the U.S. Medalists By Gender?!)
As much as this post is one for the time capsule, I equally hope that it continues pushing the narrative for continuous dialogue about the Olympics, mental health awareness, women in sports and countless other important topics that made appearances. The blessing in disguise from these one-of-a-kind Games is that the 2020 Summer Paralympics (August 24 - September 5, 2021), the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing (February 4 - 20, 2022) and the 2022 Winter Paralympics (March 4 - 13, 2022) are right around the corner!
Congratulations and thank you to all for making this (safely) possible!