Rio 2016: moments of humanity in a nutshell
During the two-week of inaction between the Olympic and the Paralympic Games we have a unique opportunity to reflect how both events can improve conditions necessary for sustainable peace. Rio 2016 Olympic Games gave us many inspiring moments of humanity and altruism.
I am moved by many of the Rio’s meaningful stories of athletes who have won, failed, cried, endured and embraced the spirit of the Games. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just about medals: it is about commitment, motivation and resilience needed to get to the top as an athlete but also as human being. For instance, Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first US Olympian to compete in a hijab, affirmed that her performance aimed to mute stereotypes about Muslim women.
If the Olympic Games are about fair play, solidarity and friendship, then nothing exemplifies it more in my mind than the Refugee Olympic Team, which marched under the Olympic flag in the Opening Ceremony representing more than 65 million displaced people worldwide. One of the top stories from this amazing team is the one of teenager swimmer Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee who braved a Mediterranean crossing on a vessel overloaded with refugees to reach the Turkish coast.
There were three iconic visual moments in Rio 2016. The selfie between North and South Korean gymnasts became an historic moment of sport diplomacy in the Olympics. Whilst, images of the Egyptian team competing against a German team – with the Egyptian team in covered uniform and the German team in bikini uniform- was a clear representation of the universality of sport, which goes beyond social, cultural, religious differences. Finally, images of Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand and US athlete Abbey D’Agostino illustrated the Olympic spirit after they helped each other up after falling together midway through their race.
During Rio 2016 many athletes became messengers of peace by dedicating their medals and efforts to the cause of a more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive world. Such were cases of the Italian fencer Elisa de Francisca, who made an emotional call for global unity, stand against terrorism and paid tribute to the victims of the Paris and Brussels attacks, and also Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri, who dedicated her bronze medal to Arab women. Rafaela Silva from Rio’s famous Cidade de Deus and judo gold medalist is a proven champion and an inspiration to children of favelas and disadvantaged areas.
The work and initiatives done by civil society and sport institutions are also noteworthy in bringing the Olympic spirit to Brazilian children and youth. Rio 2016 offered a great opportunity to learn more about the diverse realities of residents in favelas. It also reminded us that the Olympic environment and sport spirit should be available to everyone – every child, every woman and every man.
From now on until 2020 the eyes of the world will be turned to Tokyo. The following four years should be a period to reflect that the Games cannot be a panacea for a city’s problem, but instead an opportunity to change. Mega sporting events offer a unique platform to spark human rights change and promise a legacy that benefits all population groups in the host country.