Editorial: Coronavirus postpones the Olympics — and almost everything else in our lives. Best remedy? Patience

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All signs pointed to the biggest sporting event on the planet becoming the best prescription for a world reeling from coronavirus malaise. In July, a world pummeled by the pandemic’s physiological and psychological hurt would have watched in awe as 11,000 athletes from six continents marched through Tokyo’s National Stadium during the 2020 Summer Olympics opening ceremonies.

It’s an extravaganza brazen and bold enough to captivate and connect citizens around the globe, every four years. This year, it would have been beautiful therapy.

Alas, the pall of COVID-19 has put on ice so many aspects of what used to be the natural order of things. Baseball, hockey, basketball and soccer have all been suspended. The International Olympic Committee, together with Japan, relented to a chorus of calls from athletes and national Olympic committees — and announced on Monday a postponement of the Summer Olympics until July 23, 2021.

The Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 — also postponed, until later this summer.

Athletes such as Greco-Roman wrestler Joe Rau of Chicago have to put aside visions of Olympic greatness — and be patient. “I’m just relieved there is a decision and I can start figuring out what my next steps are going to be,” Rau, 29, told the Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair.

It’s not just big sporting events that find themselves in a state of suspended animation. Our lives feel the same way. People who work at restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and the service industry feel caught between pre-coronavirus normalcy and whatever COVID-19 coda awaits us. Our health care workers are worried and exhausted. Our children, forced to study at home, find themselves in the same limbo.

How should we view this Middle-earth we’re stuck in? Postponement is the compromise. It keeps alive the promise of an endpoint to a harrowing crisis that, so far, has yet to betray any glint of waning. It sidesteps the finality of outright cancellation — what was proposed and yearned for, but will never be.

But postponement, whether applied to the Olympics or the lives we once took for granted, demands no small amount of patience. Yes, the summer of 2021 is more than a year of waiting — an eon away for people around the world curious about the next Usain Bolt on the track or Michael Phelps in the pool.

The summer of 2021 will come, though, and whoever becomes the next Bolt will have a whole year to train and stretch and lift — and get faster.

Maybe we can take inspiration from those gymnasts, divers, runners and swimmers forced to put their dreams on hold, but who will use the extra time to find ways to shine more brightly, to be better at what they do. While coronavirus has us in this frozen state, we can seize this moment as a chance to better ourselves — be better friends, better neighbors, better human beings.


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