A manifesto on the lost Olympics


To the editor:

The Olympic torch entered an empty stadium in Athens on March 19.

Within this same marble arena, more than a century ago, the first International Olympic Committee brought together, in competition, 14 nations, dedicated to the sustained vision of a peaceful, better world — in friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Now we are withdrawn in a terrible fear that challenges all nations, or sovereignties so unstated, humbled by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. We are met on the flattened, globalized plane of that crisis.

Though vacant seats in the Panathenaic Stadium are no unfamiliar sight, the occasion of their vacancy this year is unprecedented. The IOC canceled the Summer Games of 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to World War I and World War II. For Tokyo 2020, current uncertainty offers the IOC little basis for a definitive choice to proceed.

We must recognize this broken journey, and its terminus, for those who here will give their lives, so all nations might join again. Nurses and doctors, selfless and persistent, who arise each day, lift us far above the feeble efforts of senseless leaders to diminish the epidemic curve. The IOC may note no triumph in this year, nor celebrate its creed, but it can never unfasten itself from the educational value of good example.

In an egalitarian sense, we cannot falter, we cannot isolate, we cannot hollow this movement. We cannot weaponize concord, goodwill and brotherhood to defeat an infectious virus. It is for us, the people rather, to be entrenched in the universal, ethical principles of health care, which the IOC, thus far, have so nobly advanced in sport.

Without the distraction of sport, we become re-engaged in true matters of consequence, as COVID-19 gently unveils the centralized fractures in our weakened state. It is a wretched irony, but altogether fitting, and now manifested, that we should embrace this Olympic year.

We do not need an Olympic Games to affirm the globe is in solidarity with itself again. We only needed the games to show what was always possible. Even in isolation, the pandemic reminds us: We are borderless, we are together, and we stand upon the precipice of Olympism.

This moment is our cause to think.

From these sidelined athletes, we take increased devotion to our cause, which suspended their measures of devotion — to heal one another, and our broken systems — to strengthen friendships, and our poor unions. To level the playing field, and its fair play.

That we highly resolve the victims of COVID-19 shall not have died in vain — that all nations, under quarantine, shall find mutual understanding in its care of people, and that governments return to the people.

So shall our Olympic flame burn brightly, and not perish from the Earth.

Noah Kaminsky

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Noah Kaminsky,