Athletes show strength despite national strife

Reader praises dedication of Olympic athletes in struggling countries.

Dear Editor:

Where we come from has an impact in one way or another on how we deal with some challenges. One side of our family is into the second generation of family members born in Canada as of two years and nine months ago. My parents, my brother and myself as a group settled in Alberta almost 50 years ago. Coming to a new country involved learning new things, not least of which was how and where you belong and how you can contribute. There are things you hope for and there are some times of testing. Perhaps the older you get, you hope the rougher edges wear off and that connections come easier since you first stepped off the plane.

Interestingly enough such a gathering of three generations met during the televised opening of the Olympic Games in Brazil. As a great uncle, a great aunt and second cousins got to know newer family members, athletes of countries whose names I have heard of, but whose geographical place in the world I am uncertain of, walked into the Olympic stadium in Rio behind their flag bearers.

What struck me was the group of nations who have been in the headlines in the last 25 years, some with the number of athletes often smaller than 10. That these athletes were at the Olympics at all suggested that despite what the news headlines had mentioned at one time, there had been athletes who had trained despite hardship and difficulties in the countries they represented. They had maintained an extraordinary focus few of us could muster. Countries like Nepal, who had undergone a devastating earthquake, Rwanda who had undergone a genocide, countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia all of whom had their share of war. What this suggested to me was that despite incredible difficulties, parts of civil society still existed often in difficult circumstances, where people did what they enjoyed doing, trained and organized their lives despite of historic conflict and often experiencing trauma. In the final analysis the number of medals won, at least for me, is relatively secondary, compared to the very presence of these athletes at the games which by itself is something worth celebrating.

George Jason