Inspired by hours of watching amazing athletes compete at the Olympics I have enjoyed an excellent week of running. At least, it was excellent for me. With the timpani drum of the Olympic theme echoing in my brain I have been heading out early this week bringing my best to the beloved sport of walk-running. I know it is not a true Olympic sport. And I know I would be very far from Olympic level if it were, but I am giving it my best superlative effort.
I went to the school track this morning and did some quarter-mile repeats. I was very slow. Very really slow. But I did them. As I rounded the track in non-blinding speed I noticed a crew repainting the lines of the school parking lot. I passed by them a couple of sloggy times. I was panting. I was sweating. I think I was a little limpy. They gave me smiles and nods of encouragement.
They did not boo.
Besides being inspired by the athletes I’ve been watching this week, I have also been inspired by the welcoming warmth of the Olympic fans. Except in one instance. Except for one particular swimming race. There are certainly extenuating circumstances involved in the participation of Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova in the Olympic Games. I understand there are questions of her eligibility due to an accusation of cheating and drug doping. But still, I wish fans would refrain from booing the athletes.
She assumed the starting position for her race completely shadowed by her own personal thunder cloud of suspicion. Maybe we should consider the courage, strength and professionalism necessary for an athlete to appear in public ready to race with the accusation of cheating hanging over her.
It must feel like appearing in public with a scarlet letter stamped right upon her bathing cap. Even if she has cheated, and we don’t know for sure if she is under the influence of performance enhancing drugs at this time, but even if it is true, we still shouldn’t boo.
If we can’t respect the athlete, lets at least respect the venue. If we can’t respect the Russian swimmer, lets at least respect the philosophy of international unity that is represented by the Olympic Games. This is what the games are ultimately about. Yes, they are about sports and competition. We get to watch in awe as the greatest athletes in the world show us what can be accomplished through talent, perseverance, hard work, training and stubbornness. Let’s watch in awe. Let’s imagine the work. The weeks, months and years that it takes for these athletes to attain a competitive spot on this international stage. Let’s not demean the proceedings by booing.
And athletes, we are excited for you. You have earned a place in the world’s most revered sports arena. Please don’t disrespect our awe and admiration with finger wagging, gestures and controversial words. We want to be inspired. We want to feel that inspiration carry us out the door on a hot morning and do our best to jog around the neighborhood in as close to an athletic fashion as we can achieve.
Let’s put this athletic world, this world of outstanding competition in a bubble. Away from our global troubles. Away from climate control, financial agreements and disagreements, politics, posturing and the less sporting competition between nations for our world’s overburdened resources. Let’s leave all that outside. Let’s show we can get along as an international community for a few weeks in this artificially built setting supporting these striving individuals. Individuals from rich and poor countries; from democracies, autocracies, republics and monarchies; and for some displaced individuals; competitors with no home country at all.
The athletes are standing in a bright international public light.
Let’s not boo.