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Despite many issues, Olympics are golden

Beginning Friday, billions of eyes will turn toward Tokyo as the 2020 Summer Olympics finally begin.

That we have been able to come this close to the opening ceremonies is a medal-worthy accomplishment in itself. Delayed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympics are moving forward, even though the coronavirus and its variants continue to hover just off stage, threatening to throw parts of the world back into lockdown and still threatening the games themselves.

There will be a different feel to the two weeks of competition — no foreign fans have been allowed into the country, and no spectators will be allowed at events in the Tokyo area. Those changes no doubt will take some of the energy from the games, and deprive the friends and relatives of athletes who have trained most of their lives for spots on the Olympic stage from witnessing their accomplishments.

The athletes themselves will be living in a bubble, which means they will not have opportunities to meet and get to know competitors from across the world, meaning they will miss out on one of the great cultural exchanges.

COVID-19 is just one of the issues that face these Olympics — questions about drug testing, for example, and a continuing debate over whether the games should be contested at all continue to swirl.

Politics and other issues aside, the hope is that the Olympics will do what they always have done — offer athletes from around the world the chance to compete for glory and honor while representing their home countries in a variety of competitions in an effort to see who is the best of the best.

It is a tradition that goes back centuries, to the times of ancient Greece, when city-states looked for a more peaceful approach to determining who the greatest power would be.

While much has changed in the thousands of years since, much of the meaning remains as athletes continue to take part in peaceful competition to bring recognition to their home countries and to themselves.

The Tokyo Games will have their own flavor, reflective of Japanese culture and heritage, while welcoming the traditions of other nations.

And, like in every Olympics, the sheer number of events that must be staged means that competition already has started, a few days ahead of the opening ceremonies. On Wednesday, the U.S. softball team defeated Italy 2-0 — no surprise — while the U.S. women’s soccer team suffered a 3-0 loss to Sweden — big surprise.

Those events are setting the stage for two weeks of excitement and entertainment, from the opening to the closing ceremonies and all points in between.

We wish all of the athletes well as they make their way to the field of competition and look forward to seeing who can bring home the gold.

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