Finally, finally, the moment has come. The 23rd Winter Olympic games have begun!

After months and months of controversy, debate, dispute and daily discussion around geopolitical taking attention away from the love of the games, finally the focus has turned to the athletes. Winter sports stars, standing tall carrying their national flags even though some of their nations may never see a snowflake touch their soil, be they brave Nigerian bobsledders prepared to take on break-neck speeds reaching up to 150km/hr, bare chested Tongan cross-country skiing hopeful braving bitter -20degC temperatures during the Opening Ceremony, or any of the over close to 3000 athletes from snow and non-snow nations excitedly (some forced to be flagless) ready to put their best forward for love of sport and country.

Together they stood, united under a white-dove graced South Korean night sky, to declare the 2018 Winter Olympic Games ‘on’.

From that moment, until the 2018 Winter Olympic flame is extinguished on February 25th, the world’s winter sports hopefuls, and a world of global fans, families and followers, will watch as 102 events unfold across 15 different sports underway in three cities – PyeongChang, Jeongseon, and coastal Gangneung.

Finally, the focus is on the real heroes of the Games – not the political negotiators, not the envoys, not the Heads of State grabbing the headlines. But in stead, the humans that are the real heroes of the moment, and all that will unfold with breathtaking courage, fierce commitment and awe-inspiring skill over the days ahead – the athletes.

Every two years we see the Olympic Games taking hold of our attention. Between the Summer and Winter Games, the world comes together to celebrate the global community’s love of sport as a force for personal and collective performance excellence across sports, and a platform for peace across nations. And yet, as sure as one can be that the athletes dreaming of this moment are working their hearts and bodies out to achieve gold, one can be sure that behind the scenes geopolitics is creating game-playing of its own unique kind. Some is subtle, undetectable. Yet, as has been the case now, and in Games past, the games behind the scenes take centre stage. Boycotts, bannings, behaviour undeserving of Olympic association, becomes the focus.

It has become a heartbreaking norm.

For global audiences, this has become familiar lead-up to the main Olympic events. A sadly familiar scene, each time making it acceptable for the athletes to become the second story.

How can this be possible? How can this be acceptable? How is it that the athletes take second place?

Unlike any other tine in the past, this time history was made when sport acted as a historic means of erasing borders, right at home, as for the first time in a decade the two Koreas stood as one, sport transcending other areas of competition and conflict, athletes acting as the ultimate ambassadors of hope.

As the 2018 Winter Olympics not undergo their daily tests of will and skill, the world has the opportunity to refocus – to refocus on the heroes behind the true humans-to-heroes pushing our often stubborn global community towards seeing one another as simply equals seeking a tomorrow where dreams can be fulfilled. These are the people rebooting our innate, absurd human connection to hope, recognising that God is indeed in the detail, taking noting for granted, not one millisecond, not one mile travelled, not one memory created.

As so perfectly and poetically stated to CNN by Ghana’s courageous skeleton athlete, Akwasi Frimpong in the lead-up to the Games, simply being a part of this time, part of this global elite sporting community, is beyond all that the human mind and spirit could have ever hoped for – just being in the athlete’s village “is like holy ground”.

May the world find that these Olympic Games, these heroic athletes, retrain our hearts and minds to focus on what truly unites billions of people across the global community. The one thing that can truly be a unifying force, a source for understanding. respect and peace. The one thing that we all share: the quest to fulfill a dream.

In loving salute to the heroes of the Games. x



Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2018