The Olympics kicked off several days ago. After a full year delay, some would say, “Finally!,” especially athletes. Others might not care at all. Some might think it’s too risky to get so many people around the world together during a pandemic. Everyone has an opinion.
The Opening Ceremonies always attract attention. It’s the opportunity to see the athletes enjoying themselves no matter how large their team or how they’re expected to perform. It’s a chance for the host nation to welcome everyone and show their artistry. The logistics of hosting Olympics is a daunting organizational challenge. The Opening Ceremonies is one small yet grand piece of it all. It’s full of tradition and creativity. It includes must-do components embedded in an expression of history, inspiration, and technology.
Tokyo didn’t disappoint. Except, they did.
Tokyo simplified their plans after the one-year delay. With very few spectators allowed in the stadium, minimizing the people involved in the production seemed appropriate. Plus, they tried to capture the story of what this unique time in global history has felt like to athletes and so many of us. It was simple yet excellent. It was intentional.
And I’ve heard many people say the Opening Ceremonies were underwhelming. Performances were excellent, but there wasn’t much we hadn’t seen before. In other words, we’re spoiled. We sit back and need to be impressed. We want more, different, wow. But what we appreciate as wow doesn’t have to be more and different. We can appreciate the context, appropriateness, excellence, and intentionality.
I can easily appreciate the magnitude of planning it takes to to create and pull off big productions, yet I enjoy honing in on the details. I watched a tap dancer and wondered how many hours he’d practiced in his life. I watched a young dancer who seemed to question her next steps but didn’t panic and found her way. I had the benefit of replaying a few details when I realized something had been incorporated when I was paying attention to something else. I wondered what it would have been like if the stadium seats had been filled, yet I’ve seen that before. Instead, I was able to appreciate how difficult it must be to perform without as much instant feedback and energy from the crowd.
The opening ceremonies were not perfect. The Olympics are not perfect. There are controversies and injustices and disappointments. There are bound to be, because it’s a bunch of people coming together, and people coming together creates many issues, especially over time. Yet so many people coming together also invites beauty and appreciation for individual effort. Stories converge. And we learn about individuals and cultures. The very nature of Olympics judges and compares people and teams. But the Olympics are more about the results of a competition.
The Olympics bring individuals and countries together who would otherwise not interact or might even be at war. For those of us who watch, it invites us to learn something about countries, cultures, and sports we might not otherwise get to know. And in a time in history when we seem to be hunkering down into our own worlds and building defenses to protect our preferences, the Olympics might be a good exercise for us to reflect on what we’re willing to explore, highlight, and judge.