The games originated in Greece supposedly in 776 B.C. although how or why they began is unknown to us. Various myths and legends surround their origin. But we do know that they were intended to give athletes the opportunity to show off their abilities. Originally, the only athletic event was a foot race.
Today the Olympics are a very big business – and a very partisan one as well. We identify and measure our success as a country by how well our athlete-representatives do in the games. How many gold medals did “we” win? This year’s games are filled with more than the usual amount of contention and back-biting, which is a pity that we devolve to this level when we should be celebrating those who have worked hard to get here – whether they win or lose.
Can you imagine the dedication and focus that these people have put into even having the opportunity to compete in the games? Imagine the amount of training and practice that consumes a competitor’s life for the years necessary before even learning if she or he will qualify? If each of us put ten percent as much effort into successfully meeting our own daily challenges, all of our lives would be greatly enriched.
Once again, following an unfortunate tradition that has been around as long as I remember, the real meaning of the games is tarnished by issues which are peripheral to the Olympics. In the sixties we all pointed fingers at the Russian and other Soviet-bloc judges for their obvious favoritism in giving their athletes superior scores to those of their competitors.
Now we’re throwing people out for sending “tweets”, questioning whether some of these athletes took drugs to enhance their performance and asking whether it was appropriate to withhold the news of the death of one Chinese athlete’s grandparents from her so that she didn’t lose her focus.
There are probably some athletes who have taken drugs. But if they win a medal under those circumstances, they will have to live with the fact that they didn’t win that medal honestly. That should, for a conscientious person, be sufficient punishment – knowing they didn’t really earn their reward and recognition.
The Olympics are not – or at least should not be – about national pride. They should be about the fact that on planet earth, there are many talented and gifted and dedicated people who have, through their effort and commitment, shown each of us that we can choose to be someone special if only we make the decision to be better than we think we are.
It is to all of them, the medalists and those who will go home only with memories, that I dedicate this post. They are, in my estimation, all winners. And it is for them that the Olympic torch burns.