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Small Talk: Farewell, Tokyo Games

Ah, I hated saying goodbye to the Olympics.

I have always been a serious fan of the Summer Olympics and will always compare them to the perfect Los Angeles 1984 Games. This year, the events were such a balm against the backdrop of our struggling country and world.

I took sweet pleasure in watching competitors from any and every country fist bump, high five and even hug their opponents after an event.

Kids from Georgia are tight with kids from California. Competitors from Australia are besties with those from Brazil or Cuba or Hungary.

These athletes have effortlessly done the most effective peace-making activity possible. They have gotten to know one another, oblivious to political or religious differences, and become friends.

This doesn’t mean they don’t want to beat the spandex off that buddy when they hit the starting line. But they operate as perfect competitors and human beings, winning and losing with absolute grace.

I did notice something very different, though, as this year’s competition unfolded. Admit it.

When you were younger, you’d watch these extraordinary athletes and think, “I bet I could do that … you know, if I practiced.” I don’t think that anymore. Now my reaction is simply slack-jawed amazement.

How can the human body do that? I find myself wincing, as I watch them push their lungs and legs to a realm that seems one step beyond impossible.

My regular remark is, “What? There’s another three laps left?”

My husband really savors the track and field, having been a long-distance runner himself. This year, he discovered “artistic swimming” — what I call synchronized swimming —and to my surprise, he was impressed.

He could see they may be wearing glittery swimsuits and great big smiles, but those women were working hard.

I always tear up a bit during the closing ceremony, basking in the the one-world atmosphere and sad that it can’t be sustained a little longer.

But it was 17 days filled with the good kind of drama, and a definite step in the right direction.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who wants to be a rhythmic gymnast in her next life. Contact her at [email protected].

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