The Rio Olympics
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Politics and Activism

The Rio Olympics

And the Refugee Crisis: A reminder that games don't solve all the problems occurring around the world

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The Rio Olympics
The Nation

Just last night my family was surrounding the television, watching as the Olympic flame was carried into the stadium in Rio. Every two years as the Olympic flame makes its appearance on-screen I feel incredibly positive knowing that the world has come together in peace through the sports that will play out over the course of the month.

Then of course the next day reality comes rushing back and I know that the Olympics don't solve all the problems that are occurring around the world. However, it is nice to know that people are out there cheering their teams on, that the athletes are so psyched to be on the world stage, that win or lose, countries have sent their best athletic representatives forward and they're all shaking hands. It's a glimpse at the potential that we could have as an international community and I love it. The sports are exciting of course, but the mixing of people of varied ethnicities and religions from all over the world is incredible. The parade of nations - for all that my little brother was complaining about it being really long - is wonderful. Countries that people never talk about are broadcast for the world to see, flags are displayed with pride, many languages are filling the stadium all at once, and everyone is smiling.

This year, history was made in regards to an Olympic team that arrived without one nation's flag to wave. The Refugee Olympic Team (the ROT) with ten members from Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo walked out under the Olympic flag to a tremendous cheer. While the refugee crisis is by no means solved because athletes are there to represent at the Olympics, it does acknowledge on the largest stage that there is a problem that needs solving with global cooperation. The refugee crisis is not easily resolved and is not to fall on only the most powerful or the most war-torn countries. Internationally we have to come together to address the issue as eagerly and emphatically as we come together to cheer on our country's teams. This year, ten athletes are competing as a way to give "hope for all the refugees in our world and...signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society."

I hope that while watching last night, everyone felt at least a moment of compassion for these athletes and for so many others from far too many places around the world. These athletes are a lesson to us, to the global community that we are failing each other. Maybe now we'll be at least a little more compelled to do something to help.

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