Wednesday, August 20

Just Ramblin, No. 15: The Olympics stories we don't hear or see

I love the Olympics, but I am weary of them. I am weary of the politicizing that inevitably accompanies the Olympics, but even more so this year. There has been so much commentary about China and Beijing and the 2008 Olympics: constraints, restraints, and raising the bar. China has been praised and vilified and while that may true for any host nation/city of the Olympics, critics seem to have been particularly vocal for this Olympics.

Of course we have had to hear the stories of the possibly underage gymnasts and how anyone in a sport that requires judging has been getting a raw deal and the Chinese have been getting all the benefit of the doubt. I have to wonder what other nations' presses are reporting about the fairness of the judging or is it only us Americans who are being such whiny spoilsports. Is the judging always "fair"? Probably not. Depends on your perspective and what you know about the sport and that's probably true of judging for any sport in any competition. It's just that the Olympics is a particularly ginormous stage.

So I'm all tired and don't care about the gold medal race between China and the US, though I'm pretty sure a bunch of other countries are competing in all of the events. I mean, last time I checked I saw athletes from other countries in the events. What I'm really digging are the hard-to-find stories about some really cool accomplishments.

For example, how being the athlete to get India's very first individual gold medal? So it was in an air rifle competition. So what? It was a competition that was awarded a gold medal. And a nation rejoiced.

Sometimes winning big does not mean gold, but bronze. Though it was hard to find a thoughtful (read "objective") report, I think it is very cool that Afghanistan will be able to celebrate its first Olympic medal. Rohullah Nikpai took the bronze by upsetting world flyweight tae kwon do champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain. Yes, it may be bronze, but it is a medal.

And there were the Mongolians honking horns, waving flags, and singing the national anthem after Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the country first ever gold Olympic medal.

The people of Bahrain celebrated enthusiastically as well when Rashid Ramzi won that country's first Olympic medal ever and that first Olympic medal is gold. After Ramzi won, he said, “I didn’t believe in my wildest dreams that I’d be Olympic champion. But the dream didn’t come from nothing. I had to work hard to achieve it. I can’t find words to describe this victory.”

That could be the victory speech for any Olympic athlete. No one coasted to victory. No one coasted to get to the Olympics. Every athlete worked hard. Every athlete, whether backed by an enormous and well-funded sports organization or fortunate to find a sponsor to have some of the right equipment, worked hard. Worked hard because of his or her passion for the sport. To represent their country, to bring honor to their country is a bonus for them.

I believe those who compete honorably and with dignity regardless of the outcome are the heroes and winners of the Olympics. Oh I know they are hyper-competitive and want to do their best and most of them seem to do their bests. So they are to be commended, even if they don't have a medal to show for their efforts. But those folks who have won over the most improbable of odds or who are able to be the first to take home a medal for their countries, well, those are the real stories worth telling.

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