The Real Olympic Heroes

Awaiting the torch, the flame
that ignites and invites
the world of sport to gather,
to meet and compete
in a spirit of revered competition,
respect, and acceptance.

Honorable countries send ambassadors
of peace, tested and raw
with luggage filled with endurance,
tenacity, focus, and goodwill.

Others pack suitcases of hatred,
disrespect, bias, with lines drawn
in the sand, with defenses up
and excuses prepared.
They unpack their malicious aim
at imagined foes, foes they’ve been
instructed to humiliate,
refuse to face, on penalty of accusation
of treason; the consequence death.

They line up with pride: Saudi Arabia,
Algeria, Sudan, Iran, Egypt
promoting discrimination in lieu of solidarity.

Their target? Israel. Their adoring fans back home
await their ouster from the games with held breath,
eager to welcome them with festivities,
celebrate them for refusing
to engage the devil.

Even in this dismal air heroes do arise. Saeid Molllaei
stands up to Iran when ordered to lose on purpose
to avoid an Israeli opponent. Competing instead
for Mongolia, he dedicates his silver medal to Israel.

Under heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia to boycott her
Israeli match, judoka Raz Hershko,
judoka Tahani al-Qahtani competes.
Raz calls her brave; they hug, but Qahtani
pleads for no documentation of this embrace.

Flags, colorful, symbolic, lead the march
of countries into the ceremonies.
Each a message, a culture, a presence.
Some march in bravery, perseverance, honor, humanity.
Others prejudice, dishonor for Olympic credo,
intolerance, and anger.

All this after homage paid early in the ceremonies,
after 59 years of silence,
to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered in 1972
by terrorists on a mission. The world doesn’t think
it could happen again. I know it could.

About the Poem

The poem shows how countries come to the Olympics prepared with a spirit of camaraderie, goodwill, and peaceful competition, while others come having already plotted how to humiliate those they deem political, religious, and territorial foes. If the Olympics cannot instill love and respect for man/womankind, where then can it be expected?

About the Author

Evie Groch, Ed.D. is a Field Supervisor/Mentor for new administrators in Graduate Schools of Education. Her opinion pieces, humor, poems, short stories, recipes, word challenges, and other articles have been widely published in the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Contra Costa Times, The Journal, Games Magazine, and many online venues. Many of her poems are in published anthologies. Her short stories, poems, and memoir pieces have won her recognition and awards. Her travelogues have been published online with Grand Circle Travel. The themes of travel, language, immigration, and justice are special for her. The poet cannot answer the question posed here but needs to ask it. She believes so strongly in peace, humanity, a global community looking out for one another, and empathy, that she must call out injustice when she sees it.

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