Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics: a non-athlete's take

Rick and I have been watching the Olympics. The sculpted bodies, the brief moments of competition after years of training specifically for those few moments; the heart break of failure; the incandescent glow of winning; these are some of the things that make up the beauty and drama, and the shuck and jive, of the Olympics.
The shuck and jive has been in some of the presentation. The opening ceremony featured computer-generated fireworks, and a beautiful little girl lip-synching for another little girl who is a good singer, but was judged not pretty enough to represent China. These are the things we know about to date. China has been unapologetic – of course they wanted everything to be as perfect as possible. What’s the big deal?
It has been so long since entertainment and real life merged, that I see their point: what’s the big deal? The world expected an extravaganza, China gave us an extravaganza. Who are we to nitpick how they did it? The opening ceremony is entertainment.
The games, however, are supposed to be something else: they are supposed to be real human beings engaged in real competition, and the competition is supposed to have integrity. There are supposed to be no performance-enhancing drugs, for example. As far as I know no country has figured out how to send a computer-generated super athlete to the games to compete.
The games are also supposed to be about international good will: look, we can forget our petty squabbles for a couple of weeks; athletes of different nations can come together in a spirit of cordial competition. Russia blew up that myth with their invasion of Georgia. Did you find yourself rooting for the Georgian athletes? I did.
I sit here watching these incredible people who have devoted their lives to their sport, and consider that I am watching the best in the world – if you can qualify to go to the Olympics, or even come close to going to the Olympics, it seems to me you have won gold. That’s pretty exalted company, pretty rarified air, when the world record for, say, bicycle sprinting 200 meters is just under 11 seconds and you lose big because you did it in 11.6 seconds. Six-tenths of a second? How fast is fast enough?
If you’re a gymnast and you can get up on those uneven bars and do a routine at all, much less go to the Olympics, my hat’s off to you. What a glorious thing to be able to do. It’s like flying.
Of course as I watched the gymnasts I thought with my older person’s perspective, oh man, are these kids going to hurt in twenty or thirty years. I guess it’s worth it.
This morning my husband and I were discussing real people Olympics. He said that there ought to be an Olympic Spider Solitaire event, with commentary: "OK, the American is looking good - ooh! she missed the deuce on the trey move before dealing the next layer! Ouch, that's gonna hurt her!" And maybe a Poppit competition: "China holds all the championships in this event, but the Germans and the Americans are really nipping at their heels. Last night Lieblich pulled off three super-pops and got down to three balloons without using the weight or the pushpin! You don't see that very often!"
Ain’t gonna happen, of course, but just in case it ever does, I’m right here, in training.

1 comment:

MtnButterfly said...

Hey Mary,

I appreciated your comment on our website. To get this part out of the way, we reached over 900,000 people across the nation today and have generated a huge buzz througout WV. The great thing is it is an insanely, 'religiously' coal state, and our campaign has created some huge cracks in the armor of the coal industry. Anyhow, that is that. I think we have a change of winning actually, and we're going up against over a billion dollars worth of coal revenue....

I really enjoy your blog! I remember meeting you years back, and you still have the same wonderful smile. I hear Vashon is becoming somewhat of a hippie commune ;-) How is life out there? Doing alot of gardening?? Thats what it sorta looks like in your picture, like you're wearing a great gardening hat. Let me know how you are, Mom still talks about you every time, and she used to want to retire to Vashon, but now she's thinking of the WV hills.

I have to get some sleep, the more people know about our project, the more work I have to do every day. I really shoulda just taken a 9-5 job instead of working for a non-profit ;-) Take care of yourself.