Olympic commercial inspires dream

Published 1:22 am Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Summer Olympics have come and gone. They extinguished the flame and packed up the flag until 2020.

For me the best part was the beginning and the ending. I love watching the opening and closing ceremonies when athletes from around the world parade in, usually waving and smiling. This year, they were also taking selfies.

It’s the idea that for a while, for a few days, people from different places can come together in a spirit of harmony even though they are competing against each other. Yes, I’m a Pollyanna, but that gives me hope for humankind.

There are also the amazing stories of what some of the athletes overcome to be part of the Olympic Games. And, it is beyond amazing what these people can do with their bodies.

I mean did you see how high those gymnasts jumped and how many times they turned over in mid air. How is that even possible?

Oh, and the runners. Humans moving that fast defies reason.

When they talk to these athletes who push themselves to accomplish such feats, almost all of them speak about having a dream, holding the belief that they could do whatever they dreamed they could do. For many of them it was a dream that began in childhood.

Again, hearing their stories gives me hope. They inspire me and remind me of the potential we have if we dare to embrace the possibilities.

A funny thing happened during this year’s Olympics. I was inspired, uplifted and touched by something unexpected. It wasn’t the story of an athlete overcoming adversity. It wasn’t some unbelievable thing that happened during one of the events.

Nope. In fact, it was not really anything to do with the actual games. What grabbed me was a commercial I saw the last night during the closing ceremony.

The ad for Coke first aired in 2014 and when it started playing Sunday night, I was only half watching and listening. Then I started paying attention and was whispering, “Yes, yes, yes” by the time it ended.

It was a simple advertisement with no script, no spoken words. There was just a song, a familiar one. The special thing was that the people singing the words were such a wonderful mix.

As I listened to “America the Beautiful” sung in different languages by people from different races and cultures — all of them Americans — I felt the beauty of this country. Threads of diversity stitched together these United States of America and they continue to hold us together. It makes us what we are; diversity is our strength.

I understand when it first aired some were upset to hear America sung in any other language but English. Well, that is just silly.

We are a country big enough to embrace the differences, the wonderful languages and customs of all our citizens without feeling threatened by those differences. Again, it is what makes us great, what makes this experiment in democracy so amazing.

When they returned to the closing ceremony, the parade of athletes continued. Unlike the opening when they come in grouped together by countries, at the closing there is not clear division.

A group of Americans might be walking with athletes from Russia. Canadians may parade in with athletes from India or China or a country whose name is unfamiliar to most of us.

And they are smiling bigger, sharing hugs with people who were strangers, but are now friends for life. Yes, it is Pollyannaish, but that gives me hope.

Just like in the commercial where differences that separate us in this country disappeared, for a little while during that closing ceremony, it felt like that was possible on a global scale.

Yes, the Olympics are over, but maybe for a while we can hold to the hope they offered us. The hope that some day humans will see they are more alike than they are different.

Like those athletes with their dream, this one is mine.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.