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There is an image that has remained on my skin in this strange summer, in which I was taken by anything but the interest in the Olympics: Giammarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim who share the podium (gold, high jump), without hesitation. The image is powerful, it tells of a sport that can be different from pure competition, it tells of the true essence of sport, where competition can leave room for the human relationship.

But to me, and perhaps not just to me, the image of those two guys embraced and excited, happy together, generous together, told me something else. Those two so different, black and white, with the same happiness in the eyes of those who have suffered and have succeeded and of those who feel together and not against each other, have told me of something that is possible and that, indeed, is already in place, integration, equality in diversity, an equality that is “normal” is not something strange or exceptional, it is what it must be, naturally.

Despite some “little” politicians, followed by equally “little” people or just frightened by internal monsters, want to tell the opposite, the reality is fortunately another, even in Italy. And the Olympics this year told us very clearly.

Cuba, Ethiopia, Canada, Moldova, Nigeria, Texas, Egypt, Romania, Tunisia, Russia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Australia, South Africa, these are the countries of origin of 46 of the 384 athletes who represented Italy qualified at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Forgive me if I don’t give exact numbers, I have never been particularly interested in sports and even this time has not been an exception, just a few lazy peeks occasionally… I have tried to find exact numbers online, but the information on the web seems to be swarming with data shot at random, in the enthusiasm of the “novelty”. On some pages we read that the 46 athletes of “acquired” Italian nationality represent 38% of the total participants… some say that instead they are 15%… If the numbers I report above are correct they are probably just under 12%… but it doesn’t matter, what matters is the image that came out of it: in this edition of the Olympics a different and new Italy has been told. Italians born abroad, Italians born in Italy but from foreign parents, Italians for marriage, Italians for adoption, “canonical” Italians, an image in its whole that’s powerful, beautiful and I want to say, free. But free from what?

Probably I shouldn’t be so impressed, all this should be normal, multi-ethnic integration in a population should not surprise or constitute topic of discussion in the headlines of newspapers or in the distracted “bar chatter” of social media posts, it should not be a topic that sports or political leaders raise depending on the conveniences of the moment. And instead in Italy, where for the history of the country we were not “used” to consider as Italians people of different ethnic, cultural or geographical origins, we need the Olympics to realize how much the country has changed, how increasingly necessary it is to discuss citizenship rights even for those who were not born from (or adopted by) Italian parents.

How necessary it is to take note of a reality, a beautiful reality, and let ourselves dive with the same enthusiasm and spirit of belonging that makes us rejoice at every podium conquered by “our” athletes, regardless of their “origin”.

In short, I would like to say that the massive participation of Italian athletes for “adoption” (in the broad sense) has done nothing but highlight and strongly bring out a fact, namely that we live in a country that is in full change, the “revolution” of thought and practice is already in place, in everyday life, in the neighbourhoods, which begin to become full of colours, smells and new voices, in schools, in playgrounds, where children chase each other, they tumble, argue, and exchange gifts without seeing the colour of the skin or asking where the other was born or who their parents are.

And with this image of an Italy so “cosmopolitan” and integrated in my head, I wonder: from what we have separated or, at least, we are separating? What have we/are we throwing behind as a country, allowing us a greater beauty and intelligence? I don’t know, I can’t answer, but I know that I like this beauty and this intelligence so much and I wanted to tell them here, even if it’s just a start, they’re just the first steps of an uncertain child, Italy; but I like to think that this child can become a beautiful athlete and let us win the gold medal of fantasy and the ability for us all to be equal and different, and citizens of the world.

Luigia Lazzaro

Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article


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