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The best medal of all

When the final switch was pulled to shut down the lights and mark the end of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last weekend, it ended 2½ weeks of spectacular events, which included the gutsy effort in the women's triathlon by Bermuda's Flora Duffy, who had her named flashed around the world as one of the people to watch because of her standing in international competitions.

Finishing in the top ten out of more than 50 competitors kept Bermuda in the spotlight and that really is very special.

There were many outstanding performances in numerous categories, with gold, silver and bronze medals issued for the top three. Sportswriters have covered every aspect of the historic event in full detail and while there were a few hiccups over one or two athletes and their behaviour, the greatest sporting event on Earth was hailed as a success.

There is much to contemplate in the wake of yet another sporting milestone and when reflecting on what it all could mean for people around the world. The closing ceremony was nothing short of the wonders of diversity, which continues to engulf this planet and which is yet fully to clear the hurdle of racial and ethnic injustice that has blemished so many societies.

Congratulations to all who earned a medal throughout the Games, and for the excitement they provided for their supporters and their countries. That cannot be overlooked because there is a special feeling when one stands on that platform as a medal-winner. On the other hand, it should never be overlooked that hundreds of participants gave their all but never quite reached that prestigious platform. However, in a way they, too, were winners because they did their best in helping to make the Olympics the event it is supposed to be.

As the dust settles before the Paralympics begin in Rio on September 7 and then Olympic excitement moves to Tokyo in four years' time, it seems appropriate to focus on the giant human waves of diversity during that closing ceremony as different cultures mingled in a massive display of combined joy that touched hearts around the world. During that colourful, dazzling programme, the spirit of the moment was not how many medals were won, but how many new friendships were ignited, which is what the world needs today.

Brazil encountered considerable criticism after being awarded the opportunity to host the historic event. Much of it because of alleged government corruption, along with a reputation for violent crime. When the Zika virus entered the picture, there was great concern among world health officials as to whether the venue was capable of hosting such an event without considerable risk to participants and spectators.

The authorities were adamant in the face of scepticism that everything would be done to make the Olympics safe for all.

There was even talk of potential terrorists attacks, but after giving assurances that a giant ring of police and military power would be in force to ensure that security would not be breached, attention turned to the real business — the Olympics.

That country still has a number of problems to sort out, with many feeling left out of all the glamour and glitter of such an event. Thousands still exist in shanty conditions in the hills and crime from gang warfare presents a challenge for a country that still has a tourist industry.

If countries were competing for medals based on how well they served the people with values such as a fair share of opportunities to live in peace and dignity, one wonders how many would qualify for even the bronze medal.

The best medal anyone can win is the one that simply states that the recipient did their very best in helping others to become winners in life.

It was wonderful to see Bermuda projected on the world stage with Flora Duffy's heroic feat. That is the publicity that builds pride in our lovely island.

There is much work to be done here to reduce what seems to be a trend of gunplay with deadly results. While such incidents may be gang-related, our island is too small to allow this activity to keep our communities on edge.

The best medal of all for Bermuda would be to achieve an award for having an island where everyone is safe, with an opportunity to contribute in making Bermuda even better. To achieve this, we must clear that hurdle of mistrust and divisiveness, which until now has been a bridge too far.

Wonders of diversity: the closing ceremony for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro concluded another sporting milestone

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Published August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 27, 2016 at 10:22 am)

The best medal of all

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