Olympic Fever

Even if you are not a sports fan, the next 17 days will bring out the competitive spirit inside. The eyes of the world are on China as athletes from all over the globe converge on Bejing. Despite political differences, we come together in peace to celebrate our oneness. The 29th Olympiad began with one of the most lavish opening ceremonies I have ever seen. It wasn’t the biggest fireworks display ever that captivated me, nor was it the impressive “Bird’s Nest” stadium. It was the people.

I prefer not to think about the amount of money it cost to host the biggest party in the world today because after seeing the opening ceremonies, I am in awe of the sheer number of participants. Over 15,000 cast members from school children to followers of Confucius. The choreography and precision of the ceremonies left me speechless. So many people who have lived in the shadow of oppressive rule had the opportunity to shine for the world, to be proud of their heritage and country. They had a right to be proud tonight. For them, the Olympics is the embodiment of their hopes for the future. Forget the virtual army of Chinese athletes expected to give the USA a run for its money in competition; tonight was about pomp and pageantry. I watched the entire four hours and still don’t believe some of what I saw performed by thousands of people in total synchronization. 

I don’t watch sports, except for the Sabres, and don’t always understand the fierce devotion of armchair quarterbacks and sports nuts. When it comes to the Olympics though, I am glued to the screen watching events I would never watch, fighting the temptation to shout U-S-A! U-S-A! It’s a matter of national pride. With so many of our sports heroes in the headlines for drugs, drunkenness or illegal activities, we look to our Olympians to represent the purity of American sportsmanship. It doesn’t always work that way. We’ve had our share of Olympian scandal but we keep hoping it will never happen again. “Our Olympians are the closest thing we have to Superheroes” (I heard that yesterday on a Project Runway challenge to design clothes for our USA team strut into the ceremonies). I guess that’s true. We count on them to win the day, but to do it in the very best possible way!

My favorite part of the vast network coverage of the games is the human interest stories, the stories of incredible, insurmountable odds faced by the athletes in many different circumstances. Although I would like to see the American Flag drop first at every medal ceremony, I want the win to go to the one who deserves- against all odds- that moment in the sun. It’s the time for dreams and miracles of courage and determination, in any language.

Ah, the medal ceremonies! I love it when they cry unashamedly as the anthem is played. Sometimes I’m crying with them. It’s a pride thing for sure. From our little living rooms in cities, towns or villages around the world we watch a global reunion that represents the hopes and dreams of all of us. I fervently hope there will be 17 days of peace and no acts of political insanity will mar the majesty of the moment. Part of me wishes all the money spent on the hoopla of public spectacle could be used for humanitarian efforts, but if it brings the squabbling global family together every four years, to at least act like they like each other, maybe it’s an investment in a future peace. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be watching more sports in the next 17 days than in the years since the last Olympics. I guess I’ll become an armchair fanatic like the rest. Pass the peanuts, please!

On a totally different note, I noticed that whenever the camera panned his way, George Bush did us proud by constantly looking at his watch like he was bored. Shoulda stayed home, George!

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