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One flame out, another lit

The 2018 Winter Olympic closed with an echo of a bang, airing in North America hours after that flame went out half-way around the world in South Korea.  And NBC has been frantically trying to put a brave face on their coverage despite some of the lowest viewership of any Olympic Games.

Olympics are about hopes and dreams.  The athletes work hard and give up so much to make it to this moment.  They become legends as they reach the podium.  So it’s even more unfortunate that this year’s contenders weren’t the heroes we were watching.

One news anchor closing off NBC’s coverage Sunday night said the unifying power of Olympic sport was desperately needed by Americans at a time when they are more divided than ever.  This was certainly the case a couple of weeks ago.  However, just when viewers should have been cheering their teams to victory, a mentally unhinged teenager was gunning down his former fellow students and teachers in Florida.

So instead of reminding Americans about their athletes on the other side of the globe, Trump was dealing with a nation in mourning.  And his solution was to tweet about a connection between the shooting and the FBI’s Russian investigation.  Fortunately, even sixteen-year-olds called “BS” on it all, one condemning his “audacity to make [17 deaths] about Russia.”

This left the daily television coverage to wildly swing between medal tallies and the tragedy at home.  And the contrast between the two was eye-opening.

While a Bronze-winning Canadian was receiving Korean death threats, Florida teachers were putting themselves between a bullet and their students.  As speed-skaters were caught bullying their teammates, teenagers were locating Kevlar vests for their fellow students to hide beneath.

Despite a sick online theory that the event had been staged with paid actors, these students organized buses to Tallahassee to watch their Representatives vote down a new gun law.  They made speeches.  They set up meetings.  They did television interviews.

Consequently, during the men’s Big Air qualifiers for snowboarding and hockey quarter-finals, three million chose instead to watch teenage survivors question politicians, the police and the NRA during a CNN town hall.  Unlike the adult Canadian skiers who went on a booze-fueled joyride in a stolen car, these kids soberly posed frank questions that demanded straight-forward answers.

And while an International Olympic Committee member started a fight with Korean security, the town hall crowd of approximately 5000 was relatively respectful.  Even the youngsters asking questions reminded the audience that those on the hot-seat deserved to be heard.  They refused to lose purpose and get swept away by the emotion of the night.

So although the pomp and circumstance of the Olympic closing ceremonies was certainly deserved, it paled in comparison to the Stoneman Douglas drama club’s original song in honour of the fallen.  And these students are far from finished.

They’ll likely never appear on a box of Wheaties.  But the flame these kids have lit will last longer than any Olympic torch.