I LOVE the Olympics. I’m really not even exaggerating when I say that. I haven’t missed the opportunity to watch any of them since the time I had the slightest bit of control over what I watch. And for an unreasonably long time, I just KNEW I was going to one day compete in them myself; definitely as a gymnast and then for sure as a sprinter. Even when my hopes of being a world class athlete were replaced with more realistic goals for this 5’4.5″ frame of mine, my love for the games and support of the athletes remained. There is something thoroughly inspiring and infectious about watching people dedicate their lives to a specific craft and then become the universe’s greatest performer of their craft. For all the problems my country has, it’s usually an occasion for me to cheer on the red, white and blue proudly. But this year, I find myself in a peculiar position; my heart isn’t 100% into the Olympics.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for all of the athletes who are going to make history, and I’m especially proud to be able to cheer for the ones who will represent America. The conflict comes when I consider the sacrifices that have been to made to bring these games into fruition. I’m not talking about the athletes and their families who have sacrificed their time and money to make their dreams a reality. And I’m not talking about the sacrifices of the men and women on the planning committees who are working tirelessly for safe, seamless games. I’m talking about the sacrifices that the people of Brazil have had to make to invite the world into their country. I’m talking about the generational homes that Brazilians have unwillingly sacrificed to make room for stadiums. I’m referring to the Brazilians who have sacrificed the promise of clean drinking water while the government ensures that tourist attractions are cleaned up instead. I’m speaking about seeing reports of the threat of Zika for Olympic athletes and attendees, but also seeing mothers and their children with microcephaly (and thousands of other sick Brazilians) sacrifice adequate health care while the Brazilian government spends its resources on Olympic infrastructure.
What I see bothers me because I believe the Olympics ought to be able to exist without those types of sacrifices. Men, women and children with less power and money shouldn’t be stripped of what little they do have so that the world can celebrate athleticism and national pride. The provision and respect of human rights shouldn’t be surrendered to bragging rights for a host country or city. But in four days the world will look upon a city and an Olympic Committee that seems quite content with making those kinds of sacrifices, and that doesn’t sit well with me. It may be naive of me, but I happen to think that we should be able to cheer on our athletes while ensuring that basic needs are met and that everyone lives in dignity. No matter how much I love sports and watching GladiatHers® shine on the court and field, I’ll never love them more than I believe in the right to a peaceful, healthy existence and the responsibility of those in power to help provide that for as many people as possible.
So forgive me if I don’t tune in as intently as usual while the athletes file in for the opening ceremony. And excuse me for wondering what’s going on in the favelas just as much as I wonder how many medals the US will take home. I’m just trying to wrap my head around these Olympic sacrifices.