Danielle McLaughlin: Olympics overshadow political discord

The triumphs of US athletes such as gymnast Simone Biles has  helped remind Americans of what they are capable of as a ...
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The triumphs of US athletes such as gymnast Simone Biles has helped remind Americans of what they are capable of as a nation.

OPINION: Americans are turning their back on politics in favour of Olympic triumphs – for now, at least.

It's really, really hard to see coverage of the New Zealand Olympic team in the States, despite my access to hundreds of cable TV channels. 

So I've resorted to hunting online for highlights. Natalie Rooney's shooting silver medal, a beautiful bookend to missing out on a spot at the 2012 games in London. The emotional haka performed by our women's sevens team, a tearful post-script to their silver medal loss to Australia.

The ravings of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are currently being ignored in favour of Olympic success ...
CHRIS KEANE/REUTERS

The ravings of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are currently being ignored in favour of Olympic success by many Americans.

Here, in the tortured frenzy of the presidential campaign, in its soaring disunity and cruel attacks, America is finding some peace and pride in her Olympians.

Michael Phelps' 20th Olympic swimming gold medal in the 200m Butterfly. The son of a single mother with a long-estranged father.  Now the most decorated Olympian in history. As he climbed the podium, pain and resolve shone in his eyes. His public struggle with alcohol abuse. Coming out of retirement to recapture a race he's contested in five straight Olympics.

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The 145cm Olympics rookie gymnast Simone Biles. The daughter of a drug-addicted mother, adopted and raised by her grandfather and his wife. Already the most-decorated American gymnast in world championships history, she led the peerless US women's team to their second consecutive team gold.

We have turned our eyes to the Olympics perhaps in hope of remembering what is in the best of us. What we hope for ourselves and expect from our leaders.  A strong work ethic. Discipline. Focus. Commitment. Passion. A drive for extraordinary success, regardless of the circumstances of your beginnings. 

And yet. Since the start of the Olympics, a conservative group has released emails that may imply favours were done by Clinton aides for donors to the Clinton Foundation. Perhaps this is just another right-wing smear. Perhaps evidence of conflicts of interest between the foundation and the State Department will arise before November.

And Donald Trump, at a rowdy rally in North Carolina, told his audience that it would be a "horrible day" if Hillary Clinton was elected and got to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would work to accomplish what he calls her anti-gun agenda. "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks," said Trump, as the crowd booed. He swiftly added: "Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don't know."

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Perhaps he was talking about gun owners politically organising to defeat Clinton's agenda. Perhaps it was a signal to gun owners to take matters into their own hands.  Trump's history of inciting violence, and the absence of discussion of political advocacy in his campaign, led many to believe it was the latter, and not the former.

The TV screens in the outdoor bars that dot the route from my 49th St office to Grand Central Terminal are showing sport, and not CNN, these days.  And that's a good thing. Most of us prefer Rooney's shooting success to Trump's firearms fiasco.

For another week, at least, political games will yield to competition at the highest levels of human physical and mental achievement. And a country divided, for a time, becomes one.

 - Sunday Star Times

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