The Olympic Games just ended were the scene of numerous spontaneous emotions of the athletes who competed in the 50 disciplines of the XXXII Olympic edition. This multi-ethnic scenario once again gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the universality of emotions. 

Dott. Francesco Galvano

Think about the desire to win, the efforts, the sacrifices that every athlete has within himself when he prepares to compete in a world-class event.
Hiding one's emotions in case of victory or defeat is extremely complex as the emotional volcano in each of us wants to explode, giving life to the proudest part of our soul.
One of the first studies on "emotions and the Olympics" was conducted in 2004 by Dr. David Matsumoto during the Paralympics in Athens, focusing the studies on athletes who are blind and therefore (especially for the blind from birth) devoid of social influence dictated by social rules. acquired through sight. Over 4800 photos of athletes from 23 different nations were analyzed in this study. The results clearly indicated that the emotions shown both in facial expressions and in body language are the same for both sighted and blind people ( / releases / 2008/12/081229080859. htm).


In case of victory (especially when taking the top step of the podium) we can notice the sincere smile known as the Duchenne smile. This smile mainly involves the zygomatic muscle (that of the smile to be clear) and the orbicularis of the eyes (raising of the cheeks and contraction of the eyes).


Not being on the top step can instead also lead to showing only a social smile (without twitching the eyes) or contempt (without twitching the eyes but with dragging the corners of the mouth horizontally and / or raising the chin and / or one-sided smile.


But on an expressive level, tears of joy such as those of Hidilyn Diaz or the contempt of Raphael Aghayev could also be noticed as soon as he realized he had lost by a mistake.


Even the body language of triumph knows no cultural boundaries. Whether we are talking about indigenous tribes or athletes who realize they have won, the reaction is the same: to show a wonderful mix of basic emotions even if the reference culture induces to show humility in public. This manifestation translates into raising the chin (typical of pride), hands and arms upwards, legs slightly apart (present in happiness and in those emotions that show security).

Joy of a hug

This last year has been especially tough for social distancing. Proxemics plays a fundamental role in social relations. The desire to be close to the people who love each other or to share moments of joy with a hug have been reduced to the bone due to Covid. In these Olympic Games we have seen the sharing of happiness regain footing both among athletes and with their coaches.

Thanks for the emotions you shared with us