The Olympics are as much about what warms the heart or initiates debate as who wins the medals. But what warms the heart or initiates debate can be a matter of perspective in a sprawling event that brings together more than 200 nations and territories.
There was little division on Tuesday in the Olympic Stadium, when two runners — Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand — offered a helping hand to each other after a collision in the 5,000 meters and then urged each other on to the finish.
“I mean, that girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” Hamblin said afterward, speaking to reporters about D’Agostino.
But on Sunday in the women’s marathon, when the German twins and training partners Anna and Lisa Hahner decided — spontaneously, they insist — to join hands as they crossed the finish line deep in the pack and far from the medals, they quickly drew sharp criticism.
German track and field officials accused them of publicity seeking and treating the Olympic marathon “like a fun run.”
This is not just a German point of view, of course, but it does reflect the range of expectations as athletes navigate the cultural norms that relate to competition and sportsmanship.
The Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby, who refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent Or Sasson, was following his nation’s standards — one that Olympic officials expressly reject. He was ejected from the Games.
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