Moore and Diaz Bring Pride to Hawaii and the Philippines at Tokyo Olympics

REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

After being cancelled due to the worldwide pandemic last year, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad got back on track, with Tokyo hosting it from July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. Japanese groups and health experts protested against having the Olympic games even in 2021 over concerns of COVID-19 flaring up, but Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted that the games, “must be held in a way that shows the world it has won its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.”

The compromise for allowing it to happen, Japan insisted the Olympic games be a no-spectator event to minimize large crowds and risks for COVID-19 to spread.

Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the international sports competition has only been canceled three times. All of them due to war: once during World War I (1916) and twice during World War II (1940, 1944).

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic games is the first time that the Olympics has been postponed and rescheduled, rather than cancelled.

Only time will tell the wisdom of whether Olympic organizers and Japanese officials made the right decision to hold the games while COVID-19 still poses a real threat.

But what we do know is that the Olympic spirit of goodwill, sportsmanship, friendship, and competition lives on; and the world is enjoying athletes’ dreams of winning (or just competing) come true, as well as appreciating the cultural sharing segments in between broadcasting sporting events.

Highlights for Hawaii and the Philippines
Surfing as an Olympic sport finally (long overdue) made its debut this summer games. Fittingly, the only Native Hawaiian competing in this year’s surfing competition Carissa Moore of the United States took home the gold medal.

Surfing is said to originate in Hawaii in the 4th century AD. Moore was born and raised in Hawaii and is a multi-world champion surfer. She’s known in the surfing community not only for her amazing skill, but as being a positive role model for the sport.

“This isn’t just about this gold medal moment, it’s about surfing, using the platform to share some positivity and love,” Moore said.

“I hope it has a positive impact. The ocean has changed my life and I can’t imagine my life without it. I’ll be surfing until I’m in the ground. Riding the wave makes you feel free, it makes you feel present, it makes you feel more in love with yourself and the ocean and the environment.”

From the NYT, NPR to local Hawaii media, Carissa’s victory received copious coverage. Hawaii residents and former Hawaii residents blew up social media with messages of pride and jubilation for her and the sport of surfing.  Surfing is a favorite pastime for many people with Hawaii ties who grew up surfing from the Banzai Pipeline in the North to Ala Moana Bowls in the South. Having surfing finally be recognized as an Olympic sport and having a Native Hawaiian win in its inaugural year made this first gold medal that much more special.

HIDILYN DIAZ. For Filipinos around the world, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz winning the Olympic gold medal was also met with pride and elation. It was the first-ever gold medal for the Philippines, which participated in every Olympic since the modern games started, spanning nearly 100 years.

The Olympic medal count for the Philippines is 12 total: 1 gold, 4 silvers, 7 bronze. Most of their medals came in the sport of boxing. Diaz also won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This Olympics, Diaz placed first in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting class, lifting an Olympic record 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk event.

With her win, Diaz will take home 33 million pesos ($660,000) in cash prizes, and a house and lot. The Philippine Sports Commission guarantees a 10-million-peso incentive for every Olympic gold. Already that original cash prize at the time of it being announced has grown to over $800,000 from additional corporate support.“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true. I want to say to the young generation in the Philippines, ‘You can have this dream of gold too. This is how I started and finally I was able to do it,’” said Diaz.

Like Moore, Diaz received major press coverage and her historic win took social media by storm. Many Filipinos around the world shared YouTube videos of Diaz’s Olympic record lift and medal ceremony. While on the medal podium, Diaz cried and lift her hand to her head in a military salute. She is an Airwoman Sergeant in the Philippines military.

Diaz’s success should be an inspiration for future Filipino Olympians. The added monetary reward could also inspire Filipino world-class athletes to push themselves to the top.

Congrats to all athletes and the IOC
Congratulations to Moore, Diaz, and all the athletes from the USA and around the world for competing at the highest level of sports and doing it with class and sportsmanship.

Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, captured the essence of sports when he said that it contributes to the harmonious and well-balanced development of the body, personality and mind.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says its aim is to promote Olympism and Olympic ideals throughout the world and reinforce cooperation with educational institutions and with projects especially targeting young people.

Best to the IOC and the movement of the Olympics. May goodwill, peace and cooperation continue under the banner of fair and competitive sports.

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