There were some great moments at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – which has now handed over the torch to Tokyo – but also some truly lamentable incidents, as is always the case. The finest moment – the epitome of fair play – was in a 5,000-meter qualifier, when New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin stumbled and fell, accidentally tripping up the USA’s Abbey D’Agostino. The American recovered from the fall first, but instead of returning to the race, she chose to help her fellow athlete back onto her feet. The athletes were running side by side when it soon became apparent that D’Agostino was injured, prompting Hamblin to lend a helping hand – without a second thought – and leading to the pair crossing the finish line together, last yet winners.
Greece’s Spyros Gianniotis also came first in the rankings of integrity when he refused to back an objection by the Greek delegation over his silver medal. Another great show of character was that of American pole vaulter Sandi Morris, who clapped rhythmically as her fellow competitors prepared to jump. She also clapped for her biggest rival, Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi as she headed for her gold-medal performance. Both came out winners.
It is such athlete-paradigms that should form the basis of the International Olympic Committee’s advertising campaigns, rather than focusing exclusively on a handful of super-athletes like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. Sure, such unrivaled champions receive the admiration of the world – at least until they are knocked off their pedestals by the next big thing, or, alternatively some drug test or another, as has happened in so many cases (including with Greek athletes). But the athletes that people truly love are those who honor the efforts of their “rivals” as much as they do their own and remind us that the essence of the Games is honesty and sportsmanship. People are proud of such athletes because they take them into their hearts as if they were their own and recognize that the only “substance” they use is solidarity – a quality that is becoming scarce. These admirers are people who are not looking for evidence of racial or national superiority in every win and do not believe that only their compatriots are spirited athletes.
Of the unfortunate incidents of the Games (where half-empty stalls showed that the Brazilians did not embrace a venture that was viewed by many as too expensive and which ignored their real needs), there are two that stand out. The first involved four American swimmers who falsely claimed to have been robbed, and the other was the case of Irish Olympic official who was accused of getting rich by selling tickets on the black market.