Matoika

The Olympics always occur on an even numbered year.  Not this time.  They were to be held in 2020, but we all know that Japan was in no position to host anything that would bring the entire globe together.  In fact, the Olympic events of 2021 have not played to live audiences for the same reason.  

There have been other Olympics with unusual stories.  In 1920, the world was just coming out of WWI, “the war to end all wars.”  As well, the global Spanish Flu pandemic had peaked in April of that year after killing as many as 50,000,000 worldwide.  Belgium was chosen to host that year’s Olympics.  Having been devastated by the war, the host country was barely able to pull it together to do so.  The team from the USA had its own share of troubles.   Luxury ships had been pressed into military service during the war.  Once used for carrying troops to the front, they were now carrying US troops home, both alive and deceased.  As well German POWs, going in the other direction, were being returned to their homeland.  Only one ship could be scratched up to carry the Olympians from the US to Antwerp.  It was called the Princess Matoika. Most recently it had been used to bring hundreds of dead soldiers’ and nurses’ bodies back to the USA.  It was nicknamed the “Death Ship.”    

The smell of formaldehyde, used to preserve the bodies was still prominent.  No upgrades in accommodations had been made since carrying troops to the front.  Though the athletes had been promised nice staterooms, these were given almost exclusively to military athletes and the American Olympic Committee board members.  Most of the Olympians ended up in cargo holds and soldier billets.  This was before the era of air conditioning; conditions were miserably hot.  Food was terrible, and rough seas contributed to expelling even that unnaturally.  Several of the athletes were injured because of pitching decks and fog.  To add insult to injury, the Olympians departed six days late barely arriving in time to get in a little practice before the games began.  

Sometimes things happen for a reason.  The accommodations in the Belgian Olympic Village had not been finished in time.  The athletes from the ten participating countries were housed in an abandoned school where they slept on cots.  The Olympians from the other countries were complaining about the accommodations.  They may have said, “This school dormitory is despicable.  We are not respected.”     The Americans arrived with a different attitude.  They would have had a sense of relief after their passage on the Princess Matoika.  You might have heard them saying, “Well at least the school doesn’t smell like formaldehyde, have rats, and stand at 100 degrees below decks next to the engine room.”  Team USA went on to win 95 of the 439 medals.   

We should all remember that the good Lord allows unfortunate things to happen in our lives for a purpose.  Often, He is the only one who knows what the lessons from a difficulty will yield down the road.  Perhaps there is a gold medal awaiting you after this trial you are going through.

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