In case you’ve missed the last three days of the London Olympics, you’ve missed a great few days. On Friday, Noor Hussain Al-Malki became the first woman from Qatar to compete in the Olympics. Her debut was unfortunately short lived as a hamstring pull (I think) kept her from finishing her heat in the 100 meter dash. However, her participation–as well as the participation of the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain–marks a notable achievement for women in sport. Every country sending athletes to London sent at least one woman, the first time that has ever happened.
If that wasn’t enough for you, Saturday also brought more firsts. Erick Barrondo of Guatemala won the first-ever Olympic medal for the country of Guatemala–a silver in the 20K race walk. He then promptly used his newfound fame to call for an end to violence in his home country, saying: “I hope that this medal inspires the kids at home to put down guns and knives and pick up a pair of trainers instead. If they do that, I will be the happiest guy in the world.”
Also on Saturday, Oscar Pistorius–who I posted about several weeks ago–became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. I fully admit to getting emotional when I saw him getting ready to run. I cried when I saw him up on the blocks, and throughout his entire heat (which, OK, lasted only about 45 seconds). Pistorius qualified for the semifinals, but last night he failed to advance to the 400m finals. Despite the disappointing finish, the race ended with a real shining moment of sportsmanship as Grenada’s Kirani James (a favorite to win tonight’s 400m race), approached Pistorius to congratulate him and the two traded bibs. And, yes, I cried again.
It’s very easy to see injustice in the world these days. There is too much violence, too little empathy, and sometimes it feels like we’re all adrift and heading in the wrong direction. But this weekend’s events made me believe that perhaps this is also a great time to be alive, a time where many people have unprecedented opportunities. Perhaps, in spite of the tragedies that mar our lives, we have hope. Perhaps we are headed in the right direction.