Everyone has been glued to their TV, phone, or tablet for the past few weeks watching the Olympics. I have even forced myself to slow down and put a few things on the back burner to tune in! It is so fun to watch these amazing athletes compete and succeed in their chosen sport as a culmination of their years of training. They are spectacular!
While watching the Olympics this year, even more than years before, we are being reminded that these athletes are human beings. Yes, like you and me! They are not entertainers putting on a show for the world to see, but they are real life people following their dreams.
As spectators, we have always rallied behind the athletes from our home country to watch them bring honor, glory, and maybe a medal or two home with them. When someone does better than anyone else or something no one has done before, we get excited for them.
Olympics Celebrate Diversity
In the past, our culture has hidden some aspects of the Olympics away. Out of sight, out of mind. Things like differences with race, nationality, sexual orientation, physical and mental health, and abuse have long been a part of the Olympics. Only recently, some of these things are coming to light.
During the summer Olympics of 2016, we learned that a man who was trusted as the doctor of the Olympic gymnastics team for 18 years was sexually abusing girls. It took 18 years for enough girls to speak against Larry Nassar before someone finally listened and took the man to trial. Our culture has changed from one in which girls were afraid to speak up for fear of not being listened to or losing a spot on the Olympic team to a culture that celebrates women for speaking up.
The Olympic games of 2020 that are happening this summer, have their own share of cultural improvements in our world and our country. We are celebrating the fact that not everyone looks the same, acts the same, or shares the same lifestyles.
History was made as Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender person to make the Olympic weightlifting team for New Zealand. Despite many claims that a transgendered person has an unfair physical advantage, Hubbard followed the rules and had low levels of testosterone so that she could compete. Laurel Hubbard will not be the last transgendered person to set foot on the Olympic stage.
Mental Health of Athletes
Another aspect of the Olympics that many of us have wondered about is the mental health of the athletes. Simone Biles, a very talented gymnast who was expected to run away with the competition at this year’s Olympics had a lot of pressure to do well. The media has been following Biles’ progress very closely the past few months. She has felt pressure from herself, her coaches, her teammates, the US, and the world to do well. Although the pressure was unconsciously placed, that is too much for one person to deal with.
Simone Biles rocked the world by stepping down from some of the competitions. She wants to do well, but the stress was unsafe for her own mind and body. The fact that she had the courage to stop is to be admired. It shows how far we have come in putting personal health above competition, where it belongs. Many past athletes are speaking up in support of Biles and wishing they had her courage. Some athletes are speaking out about incidents in their own lives where they endangered their health by competing with broken bones, sprains, other physical ailments, or even depressed or broken spirits.
Bring Olympics Into The Classroom
Although Olympics are held during summer, it is a good ice breaker for students coming back to school. You can ask questions like, “Did anyone watch the Olympics this summer?” “Which was your favorite event, and why?” It is also another way to teach our country pride and support. You can play patriotic games like Addition and Subtraction Facts Secret Picture Google Slides Game to show your Team USA pride. Talking about the Olympics is great way to teach diversity and community within your classroom.
The Olympics this year have brought a lot of media attention and the athletes shine as brightly as ever before. There are records being broken and new standards are being set. However, this year, I think there is a little more humanity in the games. These athletes are people and deserve to be treated with humanity and not purely for entertainment and national pride. More than ever, we are being brought together by these athletes. We rally around them supporting their uniqueness and cheering them on in the spirit of community.