For the next two weeks, we’ll continue to enjoy the triumphs of American Olympians, get a crash course in British culture and celebrate the centuries-old tradition of competing against other nations for the Olympic Games. Competition, especially on a global scale, is not without its share of tension.
Over the years, controversies over race and gender equality have become center stage at the Olympic Games. During the first London Games in 1908, African-American runner John Taylor became the first black athlete to win a gold medal. In 1936, the games were held in Berlin, and Adolf Hitler hoped that German victories would prove his notion of a more superior Aryan race, but African-American high jumper and sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals. Hitler refused to acknowledge him at the podium.
For the first time in Olympic history every country competing is allowing female athletes on their teams — Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia all sent female athletes this year.
Now, just a few days into the games, fans, commentators and athletes alike are struggling to handle this gathering of nations with cultural sensitivity. NBC has come under fire for hosts’ critical remarks during the Parade of Nations and the opening ceremony. A Greek athlete was banned from competing for racist tweets about African immigrants.
So here’s a reminder from director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony: "This is for everyone." It may not be possible for everyone to compete in the Olympic Games, but it is possible for us to enjoy competition and appreciate the strides we’ve made since 1894. Let’s not backtrack with insensitive comments and misplaced national pride.
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