The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced new guidelines that ban athletes from making political, religious and ethnic demonstrations at the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Olympic games have a long tradition of athletes and even countries using the Olympics as a platform to bring attention to issues that they feel are important. In 1968 Tommie Smith and and John Carlos gave the black power salute on the medal stand in Mexico City to bring attention to the racial issues between black people and white people in America. In 1980 Jimmy Carter announced America would boycott the Olympics in Moscow because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and would not leave. In 2004 an Iranian Judo champion refused to fight an Israeli to show his feelings about how he felt Palestinians were being treated by Israel. These are just a few examples.
For many of these athletes the Olympics will be the biggest platform with the most global eyes on them they will ever have. To these athletes and even nations the spectacle of sport is secondary to real world struggles and injustices. To them an Olympic medal is great but bringing attention to something they feel strongly about is more important.
Most of these athletes are young. It seems older people, at least in America, like to complain that the youth of today takes no interest in anything but themselves. They are selfish and disinterested. Yet when young people do take an interest and have something to say the old people that run the Olympics want to silence them. Why? Does it ruin the pageantry? Does it make them uncomfortable that billions of dollars are spent on Olympic villages and arenas instead of working to solve real world issues?
Yes the Olympics are a nice distraction. Distractions are great but not at the expense of pretending everything in the world is fine. People who are struggling to exist do not have the luxury of distractions. The Olympics are nothing more than a distraction. A large, expensive, entertaining distraction. If real world struggles and protests take away from losing yourself in the distraction be happy that you are afforded the luxury of being distracted. However, maybe that protest by that athlete will make you aware of some issue that you had no idea about. Maybe it will get you to do something about it. Maybe your efforts will have a positive impact. Maybe that impact will afford somebody else the luxury of not struggling but having the luxury of being distracted. If that happens the Olympics are no longer a distraction but are a sporting event of great import.