Ruth Gadebush

Opinion and Analysis

Where Hope Prevails

Ruth Gadebusch

While not without its own disappointments and heartbreak, the Olympics have provided us with needed distraction. Watching the clean young faces in dress representing the home countries enter the arena for the opening of the Olympics was truly a moment of joy in a world grown tired of the pandemic, crime, war, climate change and other woes. For us, it might have been a distraction but for them, the participants, just to be a part of this show was an unimaginable accomplishment for which they had devoted a lifetime of effort.

Not as free of politics as we like to think it is but still based on the better instincts of humankind. The Olympics do not always live up to the lofty expectations but is recognition of accomplishment for some and entertainment for us more ordinary folk.

Only a few are born with such potential for physical accomplishment and fewer still are in a position to pursue it. It is complete devotion to a limited although special lifestyle. It demands sacrifice from both the athlete and others in his/her circle. It is by and large expensive for the training and travel to participate. Little is left for interests other than that short bit of glory.

Yes, there are those who abuse the format even here with attempts at enhancing performance with less than honorable methods but mostly it is a show of amazing results of  unbelievable dimensions of human contortions and fearlessness. And we get to enjoy it while sitting comfortably at home.

I no longer think of it as a lot of hoopla for a few minutes. I suffer from those who fail to reach the pinnacle of the Gold or the lesser Silver or Bronze. It is especially upsetting when an otherwise sterling performance includes a fall. But as mentioned earlier just the idea, the experience of being where few will ever tread is almost beyond comprehension.

For the athletes, it is worth all the pain and sacrifice that it takes. For the rest of us, it is inspiring, maybe giving us just a bit of confidence that we too can use our own different talents to contribute where needed.

Alas, deep disappointment awaits those who don’t make it to that last step of winning softened with empathy from the other competitors. While we cheer for the “winners,” there are always the “losers” in competition.

I have never been a big sports fan because it so often seems to me that we forget that there are those left behind in every win. I might not know much about a sport, but I cringe every time I learn of a coach being fired because of the percentage of win/lose games.

Don’t we understand that for every winner there is the other side? That the results could be reversed in the next round? Sometimes luck as much as skill plays a part.

Of course, reversal in the next round is the expectation, the hope that my turn will be next. Then there is the sadness of the champion knowing that as age and injury take their toll it is her/his last opportunity wanting to go out at the top of the heap but just missing.

Still, they must keep smiling despite an occasional tear. There will be other opportunities in other realms and the joy of having been in the Olympics at all should outshine all disappointment of the moment. There is nothing else to compare.

No matter how many other championships, the Olympics is the ultimate. Arguably, it is the longest standing cooperative of humankind. It is, without doubt, one of the better demonstrations of humankind’s better side.

Even when the Olympics’ goals do not come to full fruition, it is something to be cherished. It is more than sports. With all its weaknesses, the Olympics remain worth all the effort. We only need to spread its principles among all humankind.

As the planet grows ever smaller with our increased population and technology for moving and mixing, it is more than the Olympics. It is using the planet’s resources for respecting each other. It is possible. We can do it. We must do it.

As this is written, there has been no inappropriate expression of political beliefs. There are better places for that although there is probably no larger audience.

I do recognize that expression at this event has a long life, but did it really help the cause be it for needed change or the purpose of the Olympics to overcome the dark side of politics? Is there anything that the world needs more than cooperation, consideration, respect for our fellow/sister inhabitants?

Yes, many times its location in a country known for its oppression of its citizens is hardly the best example of the high ideals of the Olympics, but it is always hopeful that the Olympic ideal might be at least a step in the right direction beyond just the athletic showcase. There is no doubt of its economic role.

As much as we might wish otherwise, politics does show up but usually somewhat more of a limited role than in everyday life. Our differences are put aside as we are inspired by accomplishments. Even the least accomplished is so far above any others that only the hardest of hearts would not be moved.

It is a respite from our daily dose of crime shows, lackluster duties, illness, wars—often between the home countries of these athletes—to see these men and women show us just what talent and commitment can accomplish. It is the better side of life. Long live the Olympics with its hope for a better world.

  • Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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Patricia Brown
Patricia Brown
5 months ago

Ruth Gadesbusch’s column is the first I read first every month. While I didn’t watch all 2,800 hours of the Olympics, Ruth lays out that modeling peace and cooperation from the participant nations is more potent that a Model United Nations. My only criticism of the 2022 Games is that NBC didn’t hire Ruth to teach and correct some of its sport commentators when they too often used adverbs incorrectly. I cringed every time they dropped the “ly” at the end of of an adverb. Ruth proves that grammar matters.

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