The Paris 2024 Olympics or how fragile we are as a society
Juan Antonio Belmar
July 3, 2024

The images of Covid-19, the disease that shook and brought the whole world to its knees, are still in the collective memory of billions of people. The WHO statistics are eloquent and catastrophic: more than 29 million people died and a similar number were left with sequelae of this deadly virus. In this period of uncertainty and grief, the International Olympic Committee was still fighting to keep alive the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in the end, they were postponed for a year and held with all the sanitary measures between July and August 2021. Those games did not allow public in the stands, only athletes and officials, but were baptized as the “games of hope and life”.

It was extremely complex to put into orbit these pandemic games, with a boycott from a part of the Japanese population who firmly believed that it was not appropriate to hold this great sporting event in the country of the rising sun. But, the decision of Thomas Bach and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga himself, who bet on the holding of the Games as a unique opportunity for the world to stand up through sport.

Almost three years have passed since that period that marked humanity and no one is unaware that there is a before and an after, but it is no less true that we forget with unusual ease how fragile we are as a society. Therefore, the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris are a new opportunity to believe in ourselves again, to work on that inner search that, paradoxically, we rarely pay attention to.

THE JJOO OF AUSTERITY… AND SAFETY

These games in particular go beyond common logic, they have a load of expectations rarely seen. On the one hand, the IOC itself has described them as the austerity games. It is well known that the exorbitant figures that are invested directly or indirectly in the Olympics is not the message that drives the 2020+5 program, therefore, the first axiom is to demolish that image of games that mortgage or bankrupt the organizing countries.

On the other hand, the security of the games is by far the most sensitive point, not only because of the threats from extremist groups, but also because I still believe that human intelligence and rationality will at some point make the difference between those who defend their ideals through irrationality, cruelty and systematic violence, completely forgetting to look inside, that inside that shows us the way, guides us in life and gives us the tools to build a better world.

The Paris event is the reunion of the public in the stands, that fan absent due to the pandemic in Tokyo who seeks to be the protagonist beyond the natural and spontaneous encouragement for their athletes. That public eager for a great sporting spectacle that will fall in love with the games and will be carried away by the magic and glamour of the narrow Parisian streets. It will watch in awe of the architectural style, but also, it will be a tribute to this new normal.

The Tokyo 2020+1 Olympics proved that sport, by its nature, is a permanent invitation to give and to bring out the best in you, to overcome adversity, to trust your teammate, to cross the threshold of hope as Tokyo did.

NO FLAGS

Between now and the Games, we are in Paris mode, from the media coverage to the expectations of the great economic and sporting powers, as well as those of small countries in terms of population and resources. Each one is on a different track, but with one thing in common: sport does not measure condition and status, sport is the only activity that has a common flag, a place where everyone is equal, they compete in the same conditions and only their talents and skills make the difference to order them on the winners’ podium.

I can’t help but imagine that reunion in the Olympic Village, embracing athletes of different nationalities who will later compete and be opponents. That moment is to be captured and replicated in all latitudes, regardless of creed, race and language, here the universal language of sport speaks. Another meeting point and of high affluence of athletes, coaches, leaders and press is the International Zone, in this place converge all, is the pedestrian walkway for the Olympic family and those closest to the athletes have the opportunity to share for a few minutes with their idols and take that picture or selfie that then post it on social networks or simply save it for later.

THE CASE OF FERNANDA AGUIRRE

I want to close this SportsIn editorial with an example of self-improvement, who puts her love and passion for Olympic sport to the test. Fernanda Aguirre, a Chilean taekwondo team member qualified for the Tokyo 2020+1 Olympic Games and, upon arrival at Haneda International Airport, she took a PCR test and tested positive. She was immediately separated from her country’s delegation and sent to a residence for people infected with coranavirus. She was isolated for 14 days, was unable to compete, and in a 9-square-meter room went from an Olympic dream to a horror story. Once the total quarantine period was over, she left directly to the Tokyo airport bound for Santiago de Chile, the nightmare was a torment that accompanied her for several months, she even thought of quitting the sport.

However, life had one more opportunity in store for her: to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. This feat has a special edge, as she will return to the competition with everything she has and will fulfill the promise she made to herself in the solitude of that room in Tokyo. Now she will be in the Olympic Village, which will be her home for a few days and the tatami her natural habitat for an athlete who stood up to meet again with the best in the world.

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