For a more than a week now, people across the globe have been glued to their televisions watching the biggest sporting event in the world. Before we know it, the Tokyo Olympics will be over, and we will be going about our lives as usual. As much of a life one can have these days, that is.
To say that the past 18 months have been difficult is an understatement. COVID-19’s reach extends to four corners of the world, and every person has probably reached a point where they felt like things just couldn’t get worse. Then things did. And then that dreadful feeling of things never getting better might have seeped in. That the future is shrouded in bleakness.
The pandemic has highlighted an array of issues, from physical health to government policies. One thing that has come to the forefront is mental health. With one lockdown after another; people getting sick or laid off; or cabin fever setting in – the toll on emotions and mental state is becoming too much for many to deal with.
In the United States alone, adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder rose from 11 percent (January to June 2019) to 41.1 percent in January 2021.
And yet nuggets of inspiration are there for all if only we dare to look. The most glaring would be the vaccine, which is allowing some semblance of normalcy. While we’re hardly at 100 percent vaccination yet, the inoculation rates are rising.
Others may be a bit more subtle and yet have just as strong an impact. Sajad Shah of London organized his community to watch over the elderly in the neighborhood to make sure they are faring all right. They run errands and do groceries for those unable.
In Afghanistan, Basira Popul has been working to eradicate polio for years. When the pandemic hit, her work was affected but that didn’t stop her from doing something. Together with her coworkers, she helped distribute soap bars and taught hygiene practices to help stop the virus from spreading.
The world may not be aware of them, but those whom they have helped certainly are. And these people bring a glimmer of hope in these dark times.
Another area which we may have taken for granted is sports. History has proven that sports unifies mankind. From the ancient times to the modern-day Olympics, nations have come together in friendly competition. The Olympics as we know it today is built on this precept.
To quote IOC President Thomas Bach, “Sport contributes to peace by unifying people. The Olympic Games today are the only event in our world which manages to really bring the entire world together. Athletes come to the Olympic Games respecting the same rules, all being equal, without any discrimination.”
This is why the last two weeks have been an oasis in the middle of the vast desert that is the pandemic.
In spite of everything that is happening, the we have had these two weeks to get lost in the world of sports. Rooting for our countries. Cheering athletes on. It may seem trivial in the face of life-threatening situations, but the world needs a break. And the Summer Games has given it to us.
Beyond the competition, the awards, and the national pride, the Tokyo Olympics is a symbol of hope for the future; that we can achieve the new normal we have been yearning for.
It surely wasn’t easy for the organizers to put together an event at this scale. Japan, the host country, has had its share of obstacles. Perhaps even more, considering they were one of the first countries to deal with COVID-19. Lockdown fatigue and economic woes have taken their toll and have contributed to the social unrest in the nation. And yet the government, together with the IOC and the participating countries, was able to manage to pull off this global event. Impressive? Another understatement.
We may not have much to celebrate as a species these days, but the Summer Games is that sliver of sunlight breaking through the clouds, telling us that there is something beyond the pandemic. By giving the world the 2020 Olympics, Japan deserves our appreciation.