Standing With Simone
For all of its storied spectacle and international appeal, the Olympic games was a troubled brand even before the pandemic. Seeing it emerge from its unprecedented postponement, without nearly the level of pomp and circumstance, due to covid restrictions, has been at once surreal and yet comfortingly familiar. As usual, like every other summer Olympiad, we have become enmeshed in the human drama as the stories jump from our screens to become part of dinner conversations.
Like so many other aspects of the human experience we yearn for togetherness, and the larger the community the better. The Olympic Games have historically been that global catalyst but the Olympics “brand” has suffered setback after setback in recent decades to a point where no one wants to host them, due to exorbitant costs; while at the same time their credibility has come under increasing scrutiny due to what seems like a never-ending run of performance enhancing scandals.
That said, when the Olympics resonate, and get us all talking, they do so through epic performances by larger than life figures, who dazzle us with a nano-second’s worth of their life’s work, when all the chips are down, and the world watching. But, something remarkably bizarre happened only days into these already bizarre audience-less games. What might go down as one of the most heroic Olympic performances in these Olympics is one that never happened. American gymnastics icon, Simone Biles’, decision to withdraw from the team competition July 27, citing mental health concerns was perhaps the breakthrough moment for which mental health advocates around the world have been waiting for decades.
We have had mental health influencers in the past. Canada’s Clara Hughes was the founding spokesperson for Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign, to bring greater awareness and education to mental health. (Speakers' Spotlight, 2021) Arguably a more rounded and decorated Olympian than Biles, Hughes, having won multiple medals in both the summer and winter games, would be fairly recognizable in Canada, but no where else. Biles, on the other hand, is considered perhaps the greatest gymnast of all time and is an international celebrity.
However, what these two athletes have in common is a character trait that goes beyond their physical discipline and talent, and towards a higher purpose of impact beyond the athletics arena. Their willingness to cast much needed light upon one of the world’s most misunderstood medical crises – still – is a demonstration of citizenship which may become more of what the Olympics stand for going forward. Not just feats of super-human speed and strength, as the Olympic motto asserts. (Povey, 2021) Instead, acts of unity, empathy, and courageous stances of citizenship.
But citizenship is not merely for world class athletes to demonstrate. We are all obligated to do more for people with whom we share the planet. Here are three actions from “The Daily Undoing: Being Better at Being Human” to help us be more conscious of our citizenship competency.
Authenticate: Do not make claims about your caring nature unless you are prepared to authenticate them with actions.
Sacrifice: Give of your time in the service of others.
Enhance: Making your life better, will enable you to enhance the lives of others.
Best wishes in being better.
Povey, O. (2021, July 20). Olympic Games. Retrieved from AS: https://en.as.com/en/2021/07/21/latest_news/1626884147_642084.html
Speakers' Spotlight. (2021, July 28). Clara Hughes. Retrieved from Speakers' Spotlight: https://www.speakers.