I don’t know about you, but I’m glad the Olympics are getting ready for their grand finale. After the opening ceremonies, I’m not sure what spectacle the Chinese will create to outdo that at which we still marvel – perhaps have everyone in China stand on each other’s shoulders and juggle the planets – I just don’t know. What I do know is that I need a lot more sleep than I have been getting. All right, you say, you probably wouldn’t have stayed up past midnight to watch women’s beach volleyball if the players were wearing sweat suits, and I couldn’t totally disagree. And perhaps I watched too much of the gymnastic competition, for today when a man slipped on a water spill in the hallway, I found myself criticizing the lack of toe point during the airborne portion of his unplanned summersault.
There is undeniable beauty and grace in the efforts of these fine-tuned athletes to defy gravity, to soar with the ease of creatures of air rather than the lumbering of earth bound mortals, to move through water as though we belonged to the realm of Neptune, to glide across the earth with the swiftness of gazelles. I can’t even fathom the single-minded dedication to sport, to the elusive, and for almost all, never achieved title of “world’s best.” I’ve known two Olympic gold medal winners personally, and when I asked each, “Was it worth it?” the answer was always a resounding “Yes!” However, I never had the chance to ask the same question of anyone who trained as hard and as long, and not only did not win a medal, but never even made the team. Ultimately, the only fair competition is the one we have with ourselves. Have I improved from who I was yesterday? Have I done my best, reached my peak potential? Yet, we are hard wired to be competitive, for being so offers survival advantage, so I suspect if the Olympics hadn’t already been invented, someone would be sure the come up with the concept sooner than later.
I wish NBC’s coverage would have been a little more even handed, and we were given the opportunity to see other great athletes in events besides the ones where our own stood a competitive chance of winning. I also wish that someone who has just had their Olympic dreams crushed by a small misstep, or just by a better competitor, would respond to the leering commentator thrusting a mike in his or her face and asking. “How does it feel to lose everything you worked so hard to achieve?” respond by quietly strangling the person with the microphone cord to the cheers of the watching audience.
Finally, am I the only one who finds irony in keeping a medal count by country when winning athletes for the United States were born and raised in Russia, China, Romania, Germany, and when winning athletes from other countries lived and trained in the United States? I suspect that nationalism is far too strong to allow the performance of an athlete to stand on its own, but it’s a nice dream to have. Perhaps, even an Olympic dream.