Olympics a chance to put unity under spotlight
Published: Apr 17, 2024 10:36 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

As Wednesday marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, which will kick off on July 26, athletes around the world are gearing up for final preparations for the world's biggest multi-sport event. 

The previous Summer Olympics was held in 2021 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic postponing the original 2020 Tokyo Games, leaving only three years for athletes to hone their skills. Yet the resilience of athletes and the spirit of competition remained undiminished.

Among the contenders for the top spot on the medal table, sports powerhouse China is considered the main challenger to the supremacy of the US, which has been on top of the Olympic medal table for three consecutive editions.

Expectations for the performance of Chinese athletes at the Paris Olympics is high, igniting fervent discussions among sports enthusiasts nationwide. As of Wednesday, the Chinese athletes have secured 239 Olympic slots across 22 out of 32 sports. 

From the young sharpshooters of the shooting team to the diving dream team aiming for eight golds, and the table tennis squad vying for three to five top-podium finishes, the confidence in traditional powerhouses is palpable.

The swimming team, hailed as being in a golden era as it harbors several international top-tier stars such as four-time breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang and two-time Olympic gold medalist in women's butterfly Zhang Yufei, is now considered likely to be a major contributor to China's medal haul. 

The athletics team, which had seen steady progress in recent years though no major international breakthroughs, also added to the excitement as they often create surprises at the Olympics, fueling anticipation for the summer ahead.

Among the revered teams is the Chinese badminton team, whose full-squad appearance in Paris will showcase China's unparalleled squad depth in the sport. However, amid the optimism, there are also reality checks. While the women's and mixed doubles teams have held distinct advantages in international competitions, the prospects seem less certain for the remaining three badminton events, or the two singles events and men's doubles event. The upcoming Thomas & Uber Cup to be held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, at the end of April is offering opportunities for the team to bolster their confidence ahead of their campaign in Paris.

The Olympics, often seen as a battleground of geopolitics, carries the weight of global tensions. The specter of potential terrorist attacks in France adds another layer of concern for the organizing committee and the French government. French President Emmanuel Macron recently hinted at the possibility of relocating the opening ceremony from the Seine River if security risks become too high.

Amid the global conflicts such as those between Russia and Ukraine, Palestine and Israel, the French government has also embarked on diplomatic efforts to secure an Olympic truce implementation. President Macron expressed his hope to achieve an Olympic truce during the Games, set to be held from July 26 to August 11. 

At the flame lighting ceremony for the Paris 2024 Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Bach emphasized the powerful message athletes can deliver: They fiercely compete against each other yet live peacefully together under one roof. The athletes will shine and show us what greatness humans are capable of with all their excellence, determination and resilience.

It is also in Paris that the original Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) was used for the first time at an Olympic Games in 1924, one century before the city hosts the Olympics again.

Beyond the medal tallies and world records, the true essence of the Olympics lay in the spirit of unity and cooperation, as the word "Together" has been included into the Olympic motto, reminding humanity of its capacity for harmony and understanding in a world fraught with division and conflict. 

As athletes from around the globe prepare to converge in Paris, they carry with them not only the dreams of their countries and regions, but also the collective aspirations for a world united in peace. Regardless of nationality or creed, they stand as ambassadors of goodwill, embodying the Olympic ideals of friendship, solidarity, and fair play.

In the competition arenas, rivalries will undoubtedly unfold. Yet, amid the cheers and triumphs, the enduring legacy of the Paris Olympics will be measured not only in gold medals alone but also in the bonds forged between countries and regions, and the spirit of camaraderie that transcends borders, as the past Olympics have shown us many emotional cross-border stories.

It is not the pursuit of victory that defines the Games but the shared journey of humanity, striving together toward a brighter, more harmonious future. And as the world turns its gaze toward the Paris Olympics, it does so with the collective hope that, in the crucible of competition, the truest victory will be the triumph of peace.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.