Olympics stories are inspiring

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

Every two years, there’s a two-week period where I’m absolutely giddy.

The TV is constantly on, I’m checking the web for updates (even though inevitably an outcome will be spoiled in doing so), and I can’t get enough of Bob Costas.

It’s Olympics time, and even better, it’s the summer games – my favorite of the two.

Growing up, the Olympics were always on in my household. To this day, I remember as a child watching stars like Oksana Baiul, Carl Lewis and Greg Louganis compete.

My favorite part of watching the Olympics, however, is hearing the stories of unknowns – people who have amazing stories to share that are inspiring and touching. Call me a sucker for a feel good story, but I love when Bob Costas or one of the other correspondents travels to some remote part of the world to interview the family members or tell the back story of an athlete who has virtually no chance of winning a medal, yet has won already just by setting foot in the Olympic Park.

If you’ve been following this year’s Olympics, you’ve likely already heard of an amazing story – one that is a symbol of hope at a time when it’s so desperately needed.

For the first time, refugees will be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.

This is no small act. Athletes – without a country, without a national anthem – will participate, marching under the Olympic flag instead.

These refugees have no home country, yet with millions of refugees worldwide, they are hardly alone.

According to the United Nations, more than 65 million people on our planet qualify as “forcibly displaced” from their homes.

I read an article about an athlete named Yusra Mardini, one of two Syrian swimmers on the refugee team. She stated in the article that training in her home country was often disrupted by the ongoing war, that “sometimes you had training, but there was a bomb in the swimming pool.”

After she and her sister fled Syria last year, they attempted to reach Greece by rubber boat. The boat began to sink, however, endangering the 20 refugees on board. Attempting to lighten the load on the boat, she and her sister jumped overboard, spending more than three hours in freezing water and kicking the boat to safety.

Allowing refugees to complete in the Olympics won’t necessarily find the 10 athletes competing on the team new homes. But it does serve as a reminder that there is still compassion out there and more is needed, especially during a time when violence fills our TV and anti-refugee sentiment is rising.

Despite the unimaginable tragedies these athletes – and the 21 million refugees who have fled to other countries – have faced, the human spirit can prevail.

These 10 athletes are proof of that.

Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer.

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