Well, The Olympic Games 2012 - London 2012 - are in full swing and I’m watching as much as I can. It’s putting a cramp in some of the other things I have to get done but, hey, The Olympics only comes around once every four years. With the winter and summer Olympics, the World Cup, the European Championships and the regular English football (soccer) season, it’s amazing that I get anything done at all.
But I digress. Back to The Olympics and my thoughts on this edition so far.
The Opening Ceremony. In a word, fantastic. Danny Boyle and company did a superb job showcasing how the United Kingdom has evolved, never mind the amazing and highly entertaining entrance of ‘the Queen.’ Depicting the country’s evolution from agrarian to industrialised practices, honouring the soldiers and seaman who’ve defended Great Britain as a land and worldwide fundamental freedoms, honouring their National Health Service and highlighting music throughout the ages, I was highly entertained and, even educated. I’m glad it was shown during primetime here in the United States so I could see it but, for me, huge global events such as this should always be shown live. It can always be rebroadcast - as it was – at a later time. There’s a certain excitement and uniqueness with trying to get to your TV on time and not wanting to miss a thing. At least, NBC didn’t try any of that ‘as live’ stuff it did a couple of Olympics back with some of the actual sports events.
Korean Flag Debacle. This is The Olympics, one of the largest and most important events in the world. It’s as much a humanitarian and peacekeeping endeavour as it is a multi-sport athletic contest. Years go into planning each Olympics as do millions (perhaps, billions) of dollars, pounds, euros, whatever. For the South Korean flag to be displayed during the playing of the North Korean anthem at the start of a football match is highly unacceptable. I tell my students, when giving them a test, that when they’re finished they need to check their answers to make sure they’re what they want them to be. When they’ve done that, they should check them again and, after that, check them again. Again, this is The Olympics. It’s in the details that things are remembered, enjoyed and frowned upon.
Anticipating thrills and spills. As with every sports event, there will be thrills and spills. One of the most anticipated contests this year is the Ryan Lochte vs Michael Phelps showdown in the swimming pool. Well, the thrills and spills started on day one with Phelps barely making it to the final of the 400m IM (Individual Medley) and his subsequent fourth place finish in the medal race. Lochte won it. So, right now, it’s Ryan 1 Michael 0. Also, in the pool, China has taken two golds and set new world records in the process. Sun Yang won the 400m men’s freestyle and teenager Ye Shiwen won the women’s 400m IM. Let’s not forget the archery world record set by the South Koreans early on day one, Japan’s surprise 1-0 win over Spain in men’s football, that there are more women participating in these games than there are men and, last, but definitely not least, about Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter who is also a double amputee, who uses those blade-like artificial legs that have garnered him the nickname ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘the fastest man on no legs.’ I can’t wait to see him run.
I love The Olympic Games. Since 1984 (when I watched my first opening ceremony on TV) to 1988 (when Taekwondo was added) to 1996 (when I went to Atlanta as a spectator and, in January of the same year, when I tried out for a spot on the USA Men’s Handball Team for the 2000 Olympics) to now I’ve been a believer in the Olympics movement – to compete openly and fairly against others from all over the world; to do one’s best and to better that best, whether a medal is at stake or not; to challenge and to overcome; to extol the power of the human spirit. It’s about the individual winning over him or her self and if that victory results in having a medal draped over the athlete’s neck, well, that’s just a bonus.
I have to say I’m not a big fan of country medal counts. There isn’t a prize for the country with the most medals, after all. Keeping country counts promotes separation and an elitist “I’m better than you attitude.” The Olympics, as I studied in university and as its founder Baron Pierre Coubertin envisioned it to be, are a celebration of individual achievement. It’s a celebration of individual humanity; that, regardless of their skill and ability differences, the athletes, at the end of the day, are just people like everyone else. That’s also what the Greeks did in the very first Olympics. That very first Olympics also wasn’t a country versus country event. It’s always been about the individual and his or her challenges and how they’re overcome.
If you’re an Olympics fan, like me, I hope they’re enjoyable for you and that the athletes you’re rooting for do well. If you’re new to them, I hope you get something out of them. Watch a sport you wouldn’t normally watch. Learn something about the ethnic culture of one of those athletes and expose your children, as I am, to this summer global classroom.
Enjoy The Games!