Powerful stories of courage, tenacity and humanity
I am sure that, like me, many of you have been transfixed by the wonderful exploits at the Tokyo Olympics this past fortnight. The Olympics has provided us with an opportunity to see incredible individual and team performances and has also offered unique lessons into the best of sportsmanship and internationally shared values and goals.
For me, the best moments in the games have come from the powerful stories of courage, tenacity and humanity. We are privileged to be able to learn from individuals who have set a goal, made enormous sacrifices in order to achieve it and then to have seen their sheer joy upon realisation of their dream. We have likewise learned from those who have responded to heartbreak with dignity and grace and have found the capacity in the depths of their disappointment to offer respect and congratulations to the victors.
Of course there have also been cynical and controversial moments which seem to defy the Olympic spirit. One can become embittered thinking about the huge expense, the scheduling of events around US primetime, the imposition of hosting duties on a reluctant Japanese public, and the disappointing moments of unsporting politicisation such as the refusal of certain athletes to compete against their Israeli counterparts.
However, for me, the Olympics overwhelmingly symbolises a unifying moment where we are able to cast aside prejudices and learn about and from others. This Olympics we have seen a prominence given to women’s sport that has never been provided in Australia before. This week the Matildas played in front of the largest ever TV audience of an Australian women’s team.
In a nation where those who are different can sometimes feel marginalised, the Olympics has seen us celebrate our athletes and explore their backstories of personal hardship enhancing our common empathy.
Nyadol Nyuon, a prominent Australian lawyer of South Sudanese heritage who has been a guest at our school, wrote about her joy and pride in witnessing the remarkable exploits of Peter Bol, Australia’s incredible 800m runner: “Bol’s story also reflects modern Australia. To represent your country is a great honour. Bol was born in Sudan, but he chose Australia as his country. And from the outpouring of support for him, it appears it is also a country that has chosen him too. Many at this moment only see the green and gold. It doesn’t matter where he comes from, as one commentator said, he is Aussie. And we are all with him … As a South Sudanese Australian struggling with my own sense of identity and belonging, on Wednesday I’ll get to forget that for a few moments, all thanks to Peter Bol, a young man and a symbol of what as a nation we can aspire to be, not just at the Olympics, but every day.”
I still recall with great nostalgia that in both 1984 and 1988 my King David teachers generated great excitement during the Olympics and even allowed us students to watch key events as they occurred. I hope that our ELC students have this year experienced similar joy in their own “KDS Olympics”, just as our Junior School revelled in the KDS Olympic Tikky Tokky edition.
The unique stories of success and failure, the humility in victory and the honour in defeat and the close access to raw emotion can all provide important lessons for us. I truly hope that our students internalise some of these valuable messages.
This year the International Olympic Committee adapted the famed Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” by adding another word to the phrase “Communiter”. It now translates to Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together. This is an important acknowledgment of the Olympic Games’ capacity to unite us.