This article appeared in the March 23, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/23 edition

Coronavirus may bump Olympic Games. Why it can’t dim their spirit.

Issei Kato/Reuters
Olympic medalists and officials gathered March 20, 2020, to light the Olympic flame at an air base in Japan’s Miyagi prefecture. The Japanese government is now edging toward postponement of the planned summer games. Other nations, led by Canada, have indicated they would not participate in July.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

In a quiet act of optimism, the Olympic cauldron was lit Friday in Japan. But the 2020 summer games now appear poised to be bumped from a planned July start – perhaps to next year – as the world grapples with the coronavirus.

Truly, there are much greater logistical concerns just now. Still, the games are a recurring celebration of humankind’s oneness. That spirit is needed.

“Oneness” has a power that’s both secular and religious. Researchers have found it to be “related to values indicating a universal concern for the welfare of other people, as well as greater compassion for other people,” wrote psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman in a 2018 Scientific American story that’s now being recirculated. 

Personal triumph, too, is unifying. Stories of individual Olympians can be globally galvanizing. Teams are national, but human achievement inspires – both within and across borders. 

Here’s one preview. Hend Zaza is 11 years old. That’s young even for her sport, table tennis. With a shy smile and a ponytail that whips when she plays, she qualified for Tokyo with a win at a tournament this month in Jordan.

Consider that Hend’s homeland, Syria, has been locked in war for all but one year of her life. Consider how the ravages of another war, the one against the coronavirus, are also being overlaid on the grinding Syrian experience. 

Waiting for the games – waiting however long – may mean deferring those tales of triumph until a collective fight is more in hand. But the pieces are in place. The stories are at the starting line.

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This article appeared in the March 23, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/23 edition