Valley Voices

Watch and learn: Olympics can teach Fresno about unity

I wasn’t able to go to Rio de Janeiro for the live events, but I enjoyed watching the stupefying 2016 Summer Olympics (officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad) on television since Aug. 5.

I found myself breathless as I sat spellbound while beholding the energy, endurance and sportsmanship of the most gifted athletes in the world. These were incredible athletic performances.

I had my favorites among the multisport events, but I noticed one thing in particular in all of them. In every team and country represented in this purview of sports, they clearly played with remarkable unity. So profound to me was this element in all the games that I haven’t yet stopped thinking about it.

This observation repetitively caught my attention and touched my heart deeply because, sadly, I see an absence of unity in my community, in California, in America, and all over the world. I don’t need to elaborate. You already know it’s true because you read the newspaper.

But perhaps we can acknowledge the significance of the unity those Olympic athletes had. Maybe we can apply their methods to our own lives right here in the Valley.

Of course, this is nothing new, but some things must be repeated for us to finally “get it.” Most athletes know the fact that keeping unity is a most important ingredient to the success of any team. But to go further, I would suggest that within every opposition, exertion or conquest, triumph is achieved by the individuals with the highest degree of unity.

On the other hand, without unity losing is guaranteed. Even Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

So how did the Olympians achieve unity? First of all, I’m convinced they achieved it by good attitudes. If there was animosity, I didn’t see it displayed through what I watched. These individuals have spent their lives, since childhood, preparing for competition.

One would imagine the devastation of losing would especially forbid much kindness to one’s opponent; yet, I noticed whether they won or lost, they showed magnanimity to one another with handshakes, back pats and congratulatory words.

Most important, I don’t believe their unity could have been attained without love. There were indications of exceptional camaraderie among the players. Among other examples, it was particularly impressive to watch the genuine fondness that the women’s volleyball champions exhibited for each other during the game. It seemed every single accomplishment was rewarded with a team group hug.

Humility has an important place in unity and victory, too. Sometimes it’s difficult to abide by game decisions, but a proud, negative response perpetuated a player’s difficulty in some instances. But in an interview after a lost game, it was nice to hear one contestant humbly admit that his challenger deserved the medal because he knew that person’s “… performance was truly outstanding.”

That’s a different attitude than we’ve been hearing from people who are highlighted in the media lately.

I also observed compassion without blame in many of the events as players consoled one another after an injury, or a mistake, or a point loss. Sometimes they held each other and cried. Still, unity wasn’t dismissed by finding fault, despite disappointment.

I saw unity bring victory in Rio. Yes, skill was also an important component in each athlete, but I maintain that unity was the most important factor, not only in Olympic competition, but in the success or failure of every group or team endeavor everywhere.

It was good to watch the Olympics and see the demonstrations of love and humility rather than pride, and observe compassion without blame. It gave me hope for a world in turmoil that is in desperate need of those fundamentals. I truly believe almighty God blessed the Olympics in Rio and he would teach us something from them.

If only we could maintain those good attitudes to bring righteous unity for us in our government, our churches, our neighborhoods and our families — even when we’re on different teams, have different beliefs and are different colors. We could have such victory!

Connie Bertelsen Young of Fresno is a freelance writer and the author of “Signs of the Time,” “Esprit De Corps” and the forthcoming “You’re Only Old Once,” which will be published in December by Lighthouse Publishing. Write to her at