Politics are not always swept aside when athletes arrive at the Olympic Games. This year, for instance, the Lebanese Olympic team allegedly refused to ride on the same bus as the Israeli team. Israeli athletes posted on social media saying that event organizers had to intervene and arrange separate traveling arrangements in order to prevent any altercations. Udi Gal, a member of Israel's Olympic sailing team wrote, “How could they let this happen on the eve of the Olympic Games? Isn't this the opposite of what the Olympics represents?”
While Lebanon and Israel are at war with one another and have no diplomatic relations, the Olympic Games are supposed to transcend these conflicts by unifying athletes. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident in these Games. Mack Horton, gold medalist from Australia, called the Chinese defending champion a “drug cheat.” The Chinese news outlet, Xinhua, featured a response by China’s swimming team manager Xu Qi stating, “We think his inappropriate words greatly hurt the feelings between Chinese and Australian swimmers. We strongly demand an apology.”
Gymnasts from North & South Korea take a selfie together. This is why we do the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/Id44OuehN3
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 5, 2016
In spite of that, the public saw some hope in North Korean gymnast Hong Un-jong and South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju who smiled in a selfie taken together at the start of the Games – an image that has been circulating around the web ever since. Ian Bremmer shared the image on Twitter, stating, “This is why we do the Olympics.” The message was retweeted over 22,000 times. Hopefully, more and more athletes will use the opportunities presented by the Olympic Games to share a similar attitude.
This year, Lee is competing in her first Olympic Games, and Hong returns after being the first gymnast from North Korea to medal. She won the gold for vault in the 2008 Games in Beijing. Both women are competing as individual qualifiers in these Games.