The Olympics was supposed to be a test of individual athletic prowess. The idea that it was a profit center for NBC, a sales venue for products, a professional exhibition, and a country competition was an invention of the media and the Olympic committee.
The idea of the opening ceremony for 4 hours featuring clowns and goblins and JK Rowling is an absurd and twisted travesty. The Olympic uniform this year is perhaps the greatest symbol of the depths the games have fallen to. The athletes are now forced to wear a jacket with Ralph Lauren’s horse and a beret.
But let me refrain from more criticism and remind my readers of three moments in Olympic history.
Sadly the great feats of Olympic history are now part of a sales pitch for advertisers. But let me relate two stories of Olympic greatness in addition to the story below by my nephew.
Perhaps the greatest long distance runner in the 20th Century was Paavo Nurmi. He was so fast that he carried a stop watch as his competition was so far behind that his main concern was personal performance. When the Flying Finn was asked whether he competed for the fame and glory of Finland, he said “I competed for Nurmi.” In the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, a generation after Nurmi had finished running, he ran on the track at the opening ceremony unannounced. As the crowd realized their old countryman was taking a victory lap, the noise from the crowd swelled and the competitors of all countries broke ranks and went to the side of the track to cheer the old man on.
The other event appropriately occurred at the 1960 Rome games. The marathon was run at night on the rainy streets as the temperature during the day was too hot for the competitors. The favorites in the race soon found out that a barefoot, unknown policeman from Ethiopia was surprisingly keeping up with the world’s greatest distance runners. As the race went on he became stronger and stronger and was able to run away from the field and win one of the most exciting and stirring races in Olympic history.
The only event I have an interest in watching in the next two weeks is the Men’s 100 meter race where Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter represents the personal excellence that the games once represented. Sadly he has sponsors, paying him for his performance but somehow I think he would be running if he received nothing but a gold medal and the personal satisfaction that he knows he is the fastest man on the earth.
Having said all of the above I will still watch some of the track and swimming events and root for the underdog and the unknowns.