By Pauline Kerr
This past week the eyes of the world were on the opening ceremony and beginning of competitions at the Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) Olympics.
Some of us will be glued to our televisions, computers and phones for the duration. Others find the Olympic Games a brief but welcome distraction from COVID-19, bizarre weather and political messes.
The masks on most of the athletes participating in the opening ceremony, and of course, the empty seats in the massive stadium, were constant reminders that COVID is still with us and likely will be for some time.
The reason is that some of the athletes are likely among a select few people from their particular countries to be vaccinated against the virus. Canadians discuss the pros and cons of various vaccines, the possibility of booster shots and the problem of vaccine hesitancy, without realizing how fortunate we are to have the resources to do that. Vaccine hesitancy is a bitter joke in countries where people would give anything for the chance to be immunized against the deadly virus.
As we watched the Olympic stadium in Tokyo fill with flags and costumes of many countries, we realized the world is not a large place.
Someone might contract COVID, board a plane before they feel symptoms, and be on the other side of the world by the time they get sick. In the meantime, they will have been in contact with hundreds of people from a hundred different countries.
The price of living in the global village is as long as COVID has unvaccinated people to infect anywhere in the world, it will have an impact on the lives of people everywhere in the world.
Bizarre weather is another problem that is different for us in the wealthy, industrialized west than it is for people in the rest of the world. There is ample scientific evidence that global climate change is largely of our making – and within our power and responsibility to at least slow down.
We are also in a better position than most to survive its effects. Canada has many resources. The drought, extreme heat and massive forest fires will destroy families, even communities, but they will not bring this country to its knees, no matter how many fools with toy drones ground water bombers.
Heat brings flooding as well as droughts. Even a small rise in the level of the world’s oceans will swamp coastal regions of countries like Pakistan, killing huge numbers of people, displacing millions and politically disrupting entire regions, perhaps continents.
It puts Canada’s looming federal election into perspective.
Despite the efforts of foreign hackers and home-grown anarchists who like to play with computers, there is an excellent chance the election will proceed in a civilized manner. There will undoubtedly be incidents involving photos of a candidate doing something they thought nobody knew about, the usual assortment of attack ads, and enough inflamed rhetoric to turn the air over Parliament Hill 14 shades of puce. At worst, a few individuals will end up doing sleep-overs courtesy of local law enforcement, and a candidate or two will drop out of the race in disgrace. But large-scale disruptions are unlikely.
We rarely think about it until something like the Olympics draws our attention to it, but Canada’s political system is pretty robust and efficient. Ditto for our economy and culture.
Without a doubt, Canadian athletes will bring home medals – probably more than we expect and fewer than we would like.
We are proud of every athlete who represents Canada in the Olympics and Paralympics, whether they bring home medals or not. The act of striving to do their best and representing this country on the world stage makes them worthy of our admiration, respect and support.
The Olympic Games make us value this special place called Canada. Perfect? Far from it. There is much to improve. And we will do so, thanks to a system that allows us to speak out against injustice and ensures a means for us to change what we must.