Sports and Sportish
I love the Olympics, both summer and winter. Something about so many interesting and amazing athletes gathering in one place, makes my heart glad. I enjoy every aspect of the games, from the opening ceremonies (even the eternal parade of athletes), each event (even the ones I don’t quite understand), to the final moments. When the winter games were in Salt Lake during 2002, I was unable to attend any events, but I did spend a great deal of time out and about town. The city was bustling with so many people, so many languages. A happy, energetic feeling permeated everything. For two and a half weeks, my city was alive in a way it had never been before. What a sensational experience.
So many sports. It’s the drama of competition that gets me going. The battle for those top three spots is entrancing. Few things in sport are as compelling as a favorite finishing second, or an underdog coming from out of no where and claiming third. The contrast in reaction, the frustration of a perceived failure for one and an unexpected victory for the other, the gambit of emotion, I always enjoy it.
Not to say I don’t get a comparable thrill from watching a top tier athlete performing at the highest level, rising above the field and winning an event. Watching Usain Bolt once again dominate the speed events was a marvelous thing to behold. Power-grace-determination.
Talking about the greatest competing at a high level, one commentator (during the women’s beach volleyball final) said, “The greatest play best under the bright lights.”
Perhaps, but not always.
I like this thought better-The bright lights bring out greatness. Sometimes in those we least expect. This is the beauty of sport, of life.
Competition is not always the most important thing, however. My favorite moment of almost every Olympic games comes during the closing ceremony when the athletes enter, not by country but in one large mass. Sure, many still enter with friends or coaches, but the sight of every competitor walking in together, highlights what makes the Olympics great. Certainly they are about winning, about representing your country, but they are also about building human relationships, unity, mutual understanding. These thing transcend ridiculously arbitrary things like where we are from, what ideology we may believe. The photo of Hope Solo, posing with members of the Japanese soccer team she had just helped to defeat, is my favorite image of these games. The respect, the admiration, it does not carry over into every sport, every event, but when it does, the world of sport and the world itself become better places.