Arigato

Kokorokara no  kanshanokimeochi de.

In sincere gratitude.   

Thank you, Japan, for being so much more than a host. 

Thank you, Japan, for allowing lives to grow and souls to be nourished. 

For letting people find themselves when they did not even know they were lost.  

For showing deep-seated and observable respect for your country and welcoming the world with plentiful open arms to enjoy as much of it as possible. 

To the volunteers that painted the town of Tokyo with smiles and goodwill, countless masks and gloves and temperature checks and gowns, we saw your warmth and graciousness through all of these layers.   

Thank you, athletes, for showing us peace and solidarity. For wishing your competitors luck, honoring them when they succeed, and supporting them when they fell. With every observation of the competition floor there were some of the same exchanges of glances – the look that means, “I know what you have been through. And, me, too.”

Thank you, coaches, for online workouts and pep talks. For text message reassurances. For the time it took to schedule and reschedule the division of groups as you reopened your gyms, and cheered on your athletes through it all. For a lifetime of planning.

Thank you, teammates and training partners. To those who wanted so deeply to be here to have a chance to compete at this historical event, but instead sent messages and Face-timed across oceans to support your teammates with pride. For also pushing through five long years of ups and downs, stress and success and supporting each other no matter what. 

Thank you, to all of the families who gathered safely and stayed glued to television sets and computers, and who waited breathlessly through each routine while remembering every early morning and late night. Every carpool. Every tear and every medal. We salute you. Though hugs could not  be given, the love could be felt. 

Thank you, to the medical community throughout the world – those that kept all of us as safe as possible. For taking care of people’s bodies, minds and souls. For keeping everyone taped together from returning to practice and until the last event. 

To those that cover sports in person, in written word, combinations of video and sound and through the lens of a camera that photographs the soul, thank you for allowing your words to bring the athletes into our homes. For making documentaries that kept our hearts fluttering and our minds full of empathy for the journey. For your photos that made us feel like we were there. 

Sport will always unite the world. The idea of teamwork, of fighting for something greater than yourself. The concept that everyone here has been on the same journey, the same practices and equipment, days and years, struggles and triumphs, as you have. Just on different land. 

Tears are universal. The first hug to your coach? It crosses all language barriers.

Just the same, victory is universal, too. All of the practice. All of the pain. All of the missed family events. All of the sweat. All of it. All replayed as the national anthem sounds and the flag rises. Or for most, as they march into the arena for the first and final time.

Sports – not just competitions, but the art of physical, mental, social and emotional aspects of athletics – has power. The power to inspire generations, cultural groups, communities and countries. The power to heal a fractured world and allow people to have faith. To hope, to cheer, to rally behind something greater than sadness and isolation. 

“Sport has the power to change the world. Sports can create hope where there was once only despair.”

Nelson Mandela, you certainly are right. 

Peace, understanding, respect, grace and humility. 

See you in Paris. 

For a candid look behind the scenes in Tokyo, visit our Daily Reporter’s Blog Here!

Photos by Ricardo Bufolin for Inside Gymnastics

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