TOP OF THE TOWN – I don’t know how you felt about the just completed Tokyo Olympic Games, but I was impressed. We as global citizens have been going through so much, and continue to go through so much with the Delta Variant Virus now taking hold in addition to the COVID-19 Virus that still is darting around. My first reaction was that the 2020 Olympic Games already postponed a year because of the pandemic should not be held. Cases were spiking in Japan and it just didn’t make sense to me to spread the virus even more by having athletes and fans from around the globe coming to Tokyo. Japanese authorities insisted that they continue despite a majority of the population in Japan being against it. They did hold back on allowing fans to come from around the world to watch in person. But I was still dubious that they be held. Yet, they continued with the Games and I must say it was pulled off with surprisingly good results and was a beautiful thing to behold. I can sum up the Games in a simple way, through a four-letter word – Love. When I see something good happen, and I don’t often see that anymore with our politically divided citizenry, I get an overwhelming warm feeling in my gut. I had that feeling most of the time while watching the Games, and not just when an athlete from the United States did well, which many did, but  when I saw others do well despite sometimes the long odds against them because of the poor situation that often exists in their country. One of the remarkable stars did come from the United States — Alaska, to be exact.  Lydia Jacoby not only became the first swimmer from Alaska to make an Olympic Games, but won the 100 breaststroke gold in a stunning upset. She also received a silver medal in the 4 by 100 medley relay. Jacoby’s performance is remarkable just considering she is from Alaska where there is only one 50-meter pool in all of the state. But when you consider she is 17 and a senior this fall at Seward High School, which is 125 miles from Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, you have to feel like I did that I was experiencing something remarkable. Seward high school has just over 160 students grades 9-12. For comparison, Crosspoint Academy in Chico has 86 students grades 9-11.Seward would likely be classified as a 2B school in Washington. Think about it. Here is a teenager living in a state where there is only one 50-meter pool, in a small town at a school just about the size of Crosspoint and comes out on top of all the swimmers in the world. It’s almost an impossible feat. If you can’t applaud that, if that doesn’t warm you heart, nothing will. Then how about the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan? Hassan likes to come from far behind, like the old days of Silky Sullivan (more on that horse later). Hassan trailed the 5,000 field in the women’s race right up until the final lap. Then she took off like a human rocket and pulled away to win, clocking 57.36 for her final 400m lap. Amazingly so, Hassan won despite falling in a heat of the 1,500 just 12 hours before. She ran the 5,000 with a wrap on her leg. She lost in the 1,500, finishing third for the bronze medal, but came back to win the 10,000 for another gold medal, pulling away in the last 50 meters. As for Silky Sullivan, he ran in the late 1950s and would run in the back of the pack and then down the stretch take off. He won 12 races that way, including once when he was 41 lengths behind. He was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Willie Shoemaker, who once said of Silky, who was also called the California Comet, “You can’t do a thing with him, you just have to allow him to run his own race, at his own speed, in his own style in the first quarter or so or maybe the first three eighths. You just sit there and wait, hoping you won’t have to wait too long, because when he really gets going you have to be alert or he might just leave you behind – and then you hold on for dear life.” That is Hassan. She waits and waits and waits, and then there she goes. I have a new profound respect for Japan and its people. First of all, I just can’t believe how the Japanese have packed into the city of Tokyo. A United Nations report puts the general population at just over 38 million in an area of about 845 square miles. The Tokyo metro area is second largest to New York City in the world. I’ve never been there, but on TV it looks like tall buildings stretch for miles and miles. One fact you might not believe is gun violence in Japan is almost non-existent. Figures for 2015 reported just six shots fired all year in the country. Japan has strict gun laws and after World War II Japanese citizens didn’t want to experience violence anymore and voluntarily gave up their guns. Police in Japan don’t carry guns. They must learn martial arts to be a policeman and when confronted with possible violence from somebody they subdue them, wrap them in a mattress and carry them out. They also visit citizens once a year to make sure guns are properly secured. We should learn from the Japanese, but we won’t. We are too far along with guns, and there are millions of them out there in private hands. I fear the worse, especially with 45 free and fomenting violence. We have become so used to having a lot of freedoms that people think they are on the right side of law when they carry their guns to protests and somebody starts to open fire. The hate is so prevalent that it’s almost impossible to erase. So when I see the love of these Olympic Games it really does warm my heart. There was the example of an American sportswriter, exhausted from covering a couple Games’ events, finally able to call it a day and started walking back to his hotel. He slogged through rain; his spirits already dampened by a tiring day as a woman approached him.  He instinctually reached in his pocket for the money he expected the woman to ask for. To his surprise, the woman offered her umbrella to him. No, I can’t take it. She insisted. That sort of empathy and love was in constant display in Tokyo for the games, especially among opponents during competition. It made me forget, at least for the 17 days of these games, of the political darkness that has descended upon us in these United States. Even masks to protect us have become dark targets and about half of the country refuses to get vaccinated against the virus. And did you see the closing ceremony? Man, it was full of  beauty and love. Even the wrap from the French (the 2024 Games will be held in Paris) was outstanding. For two plus weeks I felt like I had died and gone to heaven where the colors and abundant love caresses the soul. Many thanks to the Japanese for showing me there is still hope for our civilization. Bravo.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.