I'll begin with some final words on the Olympics. I'm sorry they are over. I miss them already. I loved watching the athleticism and courage of the amazing athletes from all over the world. I loved judging their behaviour (to cry or not to cry) when I was in no position to do so and I loved reading the commentary from other media channels.
Well, another Olympiad has come and gone, and for the XXXth consecutive quadrennium, Canada somehow failed to top the medal count. But cheer up! Not only did we take home the most bronze per-capita (just in time for the coming penny shortage!), but the nation's editorial pages are practically brimming with encouraging sentiment about national pride and junk.
Watching the Olympics I asked myself over and over again why an individual chose his or her particular sport, and what passion and drive moved them from a simple love of a sport to become an Olympic athlete? It's a question perhaps without one absolute answer. I've also been curious if innate talent is at the root of the decision as to which sport an individual chooses to pursue. Are great athletes born or are they nurtured and made? I've read repeatedly that it isn't necessarily that certain people are gifted and just naturally excel in a particular area.
Ye gads, is there no end to the massive abuse of power and privilege that is the Olympics? The following is a list of some of the words and phrases only official Games sponsors are allowed to use: "Olympic. Olympian. Olympiad. Paralympic. Paralympian. Paralympiad. Also their plurals, translations and anything similar to them."
Although blaming capitalism for all the world's problems is ineffectual -- if not counterproductive -- this image highlights a certain inequity and injustice in the world, especially in the face of such lavish celebrations. And a question is elicited: Just how honest and honorable are the Olympic games?
When the royal "we" of Vancouver got behind the 2010 Olympic bid, the movement adopted a slogan. Something along the lines of: "Let's invite the world in." I wasn't so sure that that was a good idea. Vancouver was, to me at least, a nice little secret. While there were definitely enjoyable times, my political spidy-sense is still unsettled about the whole thing. It's unbelievable how much money was spent on frivolous aesthetics during that period that could easily have helped a lot of suffering people here if put toward social infrastructure.
Would the federal government please cut it out with their War of 1812 ads? One minute, I'll be watching some riveting event of sportsmanship at the Olympics, and then suddenly CTV cuts to commercial, and I'm treated to an array of cartoonishly noble characters attired in soldierly red coat and womanly bonnet, circa Regency England, with platoons aiming bayonets at the American frenemy, and I'm like: WTF, federal government?
In two days, three Jamaicans won medals in sprinting. These victories mean a lot more to the country than deciding who can run fastest while stripped down to underwear. There's a marvelous symbolism involved. Even, perhaps, revenge. For almost three hundred years Jamaica was more or less owned by the British and ruled from London.
Earlier this week three Sudanese athletes who had been part of their country's Olympic training squad also disappeared from the Olympic village and are expected to seek political asylum in Britain. There are certain to be empty seats on planes returning to a number of countries in the Middle East and Africa after the closing ceremonies. The Olympics are a tribute to human athleticism and dedication but they are also an anachronism in which some are competing for glory and pride whereas, others, like gladiators, are competing for the lives of their families or in fear for their personal security.
My heart went out to Jordyn Wieber's family when she was cut from the all around women's gymnastics last night. As a parent, it is so difficult to see your child go through disappointment. They get to school and their best friends are in a different section together. They try out for a sports team and they get cut. They study for an exam and receive a mediocre grade. I believe how we help them through their failures often makes a huge difference in how they move forward.
There has been one more bombshell occurring in London -- though it hasn't quiet made the same kind of headlines as Ye Shiwen . In contrast to all the prognostication of infectious diseases outbreaks and epidemics that could potentially lead to a pandemic, including my own, the reality is that germs have played almost no role at the Games.
When you watch these games, I'd like you to look at each event with a new perspective. Look deeper into what you are witnessing. Imagine the pressure these athletes are feeling to perform at their best. It is incredible. Viewers don't realize how difficult it is for competitors to get a restful sleep or proper nutrition when there is so much nervous energy and millions of butterflies in their stomachs.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics comes readily to mind as a well-managed major symbolic event -- it's the model that can and should be emulated. That makes us look at the numerous glitches of security and management flaws of the London games -- the antithesis of the Beijing model. But in many ways messiness may actually be preferable -- especially when judged in retrospect -- to order. And even the Beijing Olympics can be seen as having flaws.
As an Olympian, I can tell you that nothing quite prepares you for what it is like to compete at the Olympic Games. Perhaps that is why far and few athletes medal at their very first Olympic Games. When it comes to the Olympic Games, be prepared to observe three types of medalists. The first medalist is your favoured athlete, the second your veteran, and the third -- wildcard!
The Games represent a unique opportunity for the world to share its germs and for public health officials to find a way to stem the tide of infection. The fear of germs has recently been raised to a level not seen since the days of SARS or the pandemic flu. It's now a matter of time to see whether the fears will be realized or fade away as the athletic achievements take over.