- When the Olympics started, perhaps because I now have so many international connections on Facebook, I felt how the entire planet had come together to play games together; not to shoot, not to kill or to maim (well, not intentionally), but to ride horses and bicycles, run and jump, and to throw, hit, and kick balls at and past each other. Imagine, the entire human race uniting on this one endeavour. But then of course my happy little bubble burst, and I thought of those who were focused on more immediate concerns – worrying about how they are going to feed themselves and their families, or get clean water, or combat deadly disease, or avoid the civil wars that rage around them. And while all these people are going through these horrors, we’re playing indulgent games. And as much as I love the Olympics, it made me feel slightly sick. Why can’t we unite like this in an endeavour (any endeavour) that actually matters? And then I feel sick again. And I know none of these questions are insightful or original. So why haven’t we solved them yet?
- Or perhaps I am missing the point. After all, we do come together, united, to play games by specific rules (ignoring the drug problems). We see people who compete one moment, and hug the next. We see people striving to be the best they can be. We see fierce rivals reaching out a helping hand to an injured competitor. We see humility in victory and dignity in defeat. And that has to be good, surely? It doesn’t solve world peace. But perhaps it gives us hope?
- The nationalism the Olympics generates makes me uncomfortable. I know pride in where you live is quite normal. We want to feel good about our lives, after all. I’m as guilty as the next person of supporting my fellow countrymen and women in their atheltic efforts, in cheering on the black jersey, and of relishing our victories. But I feel less guilty about it because we are so insignificant. We’re only going to win a few medals. We’ve exceeded expectations by winning 13 medals at these Olympics, five of them gold. The US or China win that many in an evening in the pool, or Team GB in an evening on the cycle track. So NZ’s patriotism is small, proud, but humble. We take time to cheer on other countries. We throw aside our patriotism, and just revel in the magnificent athletic achievements of the competitors. I’m a weeper, so have found myself in tears watching victories from all sorts of countries, even Australia! I feel proud for underdogs, and for people who achieve against odds, or who perform personal bests, regardless of where they place. I love seeing athletes from small countries pop up on the world stage. (Bahamas relay team vs the US, for example. Talk about David and Goliath.) But what I dislike is seeing a nationalism emerge that is not humble, a nationalism that turns into gloating and arrogance. Some countries are more prone to this than others.
- I feel for those who compete and don’t win a medal. I hate that there’s a view that you don’t win silver, you lose gold. No, some people win silver. Some win bronze, and some win just in their minds and hearts, or the minds and hearts of their supporters. And I love that. I watched the Triathlon the other night. 55 competitors, and only three medals. Still, at least they got to swim, bike and run for 2 hours. I then watched a guy break on his start in the 200 metre heats. He was disqualified. His games were over before he started. How awful that must feel. Or the Chinese hurdler who didn’t get over the first hurdle. I feel for them. Imagine spending four years (or many more) of intense training and sacrifice and focus only to be eliminated before you took a step. Imagine spending four years (or more) of intense training and sacrifice and focus going to the Olympics and KNOWING that you won’t get beyond the heats. What mindset does it take to do that?
Other, shallower, thoughts include:
- Damn, there are some good-looking men in London this summer.
- London is very pretty in summer.
- I can name the host cities back to 1956, and a few more (London ’48, Berlin ’36, Paris ’24). I think I qualify as an Olympics nerd.
- Even if I could compete in the Olympics today, I know I wouldn’t be in the lightweight sculls. Sigh.
- What must it feel like to have 85,000 people cheering for you as you are introduced, or run up to the long jump, or win your race, or get your medal? Your heart must just want to jump out of your chest and do a dance.
- Why is it that some sports hand out medals like candy (gymnastics) and others as if the medals are (perhaps rightly) gold. I mean, the sheer number up for grabs in gymnastics is ridiculous. And yet the poor sailors have to compete in about 15 races for one event. Usain Bolt can win four medals for running fast, a total of about 60 seconds. So I think that in the triathlon, a medal should be given for the winner of each leg. Similarly in the equestrian eventing. Rowing could copy the swimmers and track athletes, and have a sprint, middle and long distance, and hey, why not, a relay too. (I’ve just increased our medal tally fourfold!)
- Men in spandex. Never really a good look.
Our five golds have turned into six, after Valerie Adams, the defending Olympic women’s shot put champion, has been pronounced the gold medal winner, after the first place getter has tested positive for drugs, and been stripped of her title and her medal. Yay, Valerie. Boo, cheats.