When I was a child of five or six living in Yonkers, New York, my parents took my sister and me to “The Greatest Show on Earth”, i.e. the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. And it was presented in one of the most iconic locations in our country and possibly the world – Madison Square Garden.
What more could a child ask – and what do I remember (vaguely)? The lions! The trapeze artists! The clowns! And of course, the popcorn.
It was over 80 years ago, but the memories are still there. I had no thought but that it was the greatest show on earth!
But I’m changing my mind! I think The Greatest Show on Earth is with us today and will be with us for several days and will dominate the lives of the two Snarrs in this household and possibly a billion or more households in our world. What is this show? It’s the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!
But why is it so great to me? Is it because I attended one day of the Winter Olympics in Italy back in 1956 or was it that I became personally acquainted with the winner of the most prestigious event, the Decathlon, at the Olympics at the 1956 games in Melbourne, Australia? That was Milt Campbell.
But neither of these is the reason.
There is not just one reason; there are innumerable ones, and they were evoked today as I watched the opening parade of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. There were participants from over 200 countries — some with just a few participants to those countries with enormous numbers of athletes. Some from very small and remote countries to those with hundreds of millions of citizens with massive lands.
More specifically for me, it was because of a family that moved from location to location, necessitating breaking into new social settings of schools, churches, clubs and more. It was a year-and-a-half in the military in Germany with very different friends from many places in the U.S. From this experience it was the GI Bill of Rights which enabled me to attend over a dozen colleges and universities and finish my college courses in Mexico.
In toto, it was getting out and about, necessitated by the environment into which I was cast, and fortunately had been given the tools with which to survive.
Advice: Watch the Olympics and root for those countries that have never won an Olympic medal – and enjoy the plethora of skin colors, languages and skills that populate this wonderful world in which we live.
Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus of Wilmington College.