Ever since I was a young child, I have always enjoyed the Olympics. I especially love the opening ceremonies when the athletes from all sports and all countries come together––filled with excitement and hope and promise. I love seeing the flags from all around the world, I love seeing the various sizes of the delegations, and usually learning about a sport I hadn’t heard of.
These athletes represent the best of what the world has to offer. Some are already famous. Some will become famous because of how well they do in their event. There will be tears of joy and celebration and inevitably tears of physical and emotional pain as these athletes compete with truly the best of the best.
This year I felt quite apprehensive about the Olympics. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. New variants of the virus seem to be popping up almost weekly. And the thought of gathering people from around the world, in one location that has yet to get the virus under control, felt like an irresponsible recipe for disaster.
I understand many athletes want to compete, global pandemic or not. For so many, each year that passes is a year closer to their retirement and a year where they will not be able to earn money. I understand that and empathize. However, I was concerned that thousands of athletes, coaches, trainers, spectators, family members, and fans would gather in Tokyo, Japan to cheer on their respective athlete and then travel back to their native land possibly bringing new strains of the COVID virus with them.
I spoke to a friend who lives in Tokyo who was incensed that the global community would have such disregard for the citizens of Japan. She wondered what would happen to her family and loved ones as thousands of international travelers descended upon her city during a global pandemic.
We have read copious stories about the corruption within the Olympic committee and the global web of money, power, and governance. It is my sincere hope that the testing protocols in place were like none we’ve seen thus far. I truly hope the athletes, their supporting families and coaching structures, as well as the citizens of Japan, were able to enjoy the games safely and with no new outbreaks.
The Olympics are a time to showcase what the world has to offer in individual and team sports. It is a time to cheer on nations not your own, feel pride in nations because of friends and distant relatives, and learn something about countries, old and new. I hope all of the athletes had a safe and successful Olympic season.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and also the What’s in It for Us podcast.