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Todos Somos Um

A Local Westfield Teacher's Olympic Experience

Todos Somos Um. We are all one. 

The famous Brazilian graffiti artist, Kobra, choose this mantra as the title for the masterpiece he created for the games. His brilliant and gigantic mural depicts 6 different people groups in a stunning display of culture, color and beauty. It portrays the unity, peace and feelings of community that perfectly sums up my feelings for my time at the Olympics. We are all one. I have never felt that more than this week, here at the Olympic games.



You can't understand this strange Olympic community until you experience it for yourself. We have all watched the Olympics on TV. We have all witnessed the athletes compete and heard their stories. Every four years we all cheer on the American Team and yearn for Gold with lustful anticipation. The media describes and perhaps ignites feuds between athletes and countries and at home everyone focuses on the competition and rivalries.

But when you are here at the Olympics in person the rivalries seem to melt away.  It feels completely different.  What you don’t see through the TV is the community of spectators, athletes, volunteers, families of athletes, and media personnel who have all united under shared passions.  From home it is impossible to understand the bond and friendships being built in the little Utopian Bubble that is the Olympic Games.


This past week I got to live my dream.  I got to attend several Olympic events including the Opening Ceremony.   I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see Kerri Walsh-Jennings absolutely dominate the Beach Volleyball court in person. I was also never so proud to be a Boilermaker than when watching Steele Johnson and David Bodia dive for Silver and give God all of the glory. It was also thrilling to watch US men’s basketball and Gymnastics.   I found it fascinating and enthralling to be there live with an energetic audience.



However, the events themselves, while thrilling and fun, were not my favorite part of being here at the Olympics.

What I love most about being here during the Olympics was the COMMUNITY. The Olympic community is smaller than I ever imagined. Most events are all spaced out together in the Olympic park and it is fascinating to see people go around the massive park bustling off to their various events from water polo or tennis to handball or diving.  

I kept running into the same people. I met these people on the bus going to the Olympic park, on the street, at the Boulevard or in line for different events.  It is thrilling and exciting to see people you recognize again and again.  It is fun to check in with each other, find out what they have seen and where they are going to next.  We shared stories of the games and gave each other advice.  Here in the Olympic Park, Rio suddenly felt small and familiar.

I saw athletes on their way to their events, duffle bags in hand and concentration on their face. I met the families of the athletes with their nervous smiles and hopeful energy. I created a group of friends from around the world and suddenly we all started sharing a common purpose. We found ourselves rooting for each other’s teams, not just our own.



The Host city's intoxicating excitement compels everyone to route for every Brazilian competitor along with Rio's  vibrant crowd.  I met many family members of athletes while roaming the Olympic Park and I found myself cheering, not just for the Americans or even the Brazilians, but also for the daughter of the Chinese woman I met in line of the diving event. And I cheered for the son of the guy from Mexico and for the friends of that sweet couple from Argentina.  While at the Olympics in Rio, I started rooting for the world—not just America.

When I walked around the Olympic village I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie and joy. There are several tables set up in the Olympic Park and I saw different groups mixing together sharing meals and hopping table to table to swap pins and collectible cups. One evening I even joined a Danish Family in their game of 500 Rummy at one of these tables.



Here in this strange and magical Olympic bubble, smiles and kindness break language barriers and patience and understanding seem to be the normal mode of operation.  This utopia of peaceful cohabitation is why it is essential to visit the games in person.   It was here that my heart felt completely at peace and full of joy.  During all of the fun and love and celebration I started to fully understand Todos Somos Um. “We are all one."  



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