As the 2016 Summer Olympics come to a close, many athletes and spectators will reflect upon their favourite victories and certain (seemingly devastating) losses. Apart from the entertainment and world-class athletics, I feel that the most prominent aspect of the games is the comradery and friendship that these games initiate, for both athletes and spectators alike.

Scenes of crime, war, and devastation plague our news channels and media sources, often fueled by racial, religious, or political motives. Although there are real problems occurring both at home and abroad, the ability for people to come together, compete, and celebrate in the spirit of athletics from around the globe is remarkable. News channels continue to cover other stories throughout the games, but they are often, for better or for worse, overshadowed by athletes competing in Rio.

When spectators cheer during the events, they may be cheering for a particular athlete, but often are cheering for an entire country. It is not only across borders but within them that we are able to come together in support of a common cause.

Additionally, our media coverage extends beyond star athletes and sporting events. We are exposed to inspirational athletes and nations who would likely be overlooked were it not for the Olympics. The refugee team, for example, features ten athletes from countries torn by conflict and often in need of international aid. Also, athletes from smaller nations are able to represent their countries on a global level, and they too can illuminate global issues of poverty, and a lack or resources in their home countries.

Living in a developed country, it can become very easy for us go about our daily lives with little regard, or awareness, of the conditions that others face daily. The lack of education and resources, not just for sports, in countries around the globe is rarely at the forefront of any media coverage unless there are political or economic reasons for our country to intervene. The Olympics include coverage of athletes’ stories from such countries, which ultimately brings awareness important issues.

Lastly, the world is focused on something positive. Despite the challenges that we face at home, and that others face abroad, or maybe because of them, we are able to take a moment and pause our daily routines in order to be a part of the joy of the Olympics, even if it is only for several days.

To see athletes from countries that are in conflict with one another, to see athletes of all races, religions, and ethnicities, and to see athletes of all economic and social statuses overcoming borders and other barriers to compete and celebrate the spirit of sport and international friendship is extraordinary. Because, at the end of the day, this is something that we, not as citizens of any one country, but rather, as citizens of this earth, participated in together.