Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Reflections on the Olympics, London 2012

Note to readers: This post conforms to spelling according to UK English rules. Just thought I'd go back to my pre-US days and since the Games are being hosted by London, this is a nod to the British:).

For the past ten or so days, I have been glued to the television for several hours, watching NBC's telecast of the London Olympics of 2012.

The Olympics and also the Asian and the Commonwealth Games were part of my growing up years. I have always been fascinated by the parade of virtually all the nations on this earth, and all the events with the best of each country pitted against each other.

The Olympics are, of course, the king of all sports events, in my humble opinion. This is THE most varied, best known, most prestigious sporting event there is. It is a truly international pageant.

It is one of those rare occasions where even people who normally don't care much for sports sit and watch even lesser known events such as water polo, judo and synchronised swimming. And, I wait with bated breath for my favourite event, gymnastics.
If you have read my previous posts, you might be aware that I am a huge fan of the gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, even though she had retired by the time I was old enough to even comprehend what the Olympics meant. I had watched a four-part movie about her life when I was in school and was completely blown over. I scribbled doodles of gymnasts on random scraps of paper, nursing the impossible dream that I would be one, too:). Ah, the imagination of a child!

The names of various past gymnasts and athletes from other disciplines from countries such as Romania, Ethiopia, Ukraine and China still ring a bell in my head, though I can't utter a single word in any of their languages. Some of these athletes are Svetlana Khorkina (Gymnastics, Russia), Ecatrina Szabo (Gymnastics, Romania), Daniela Silivas (Gymnastics, Romania), Carly Patterson (Gymnastics, USA), Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson (Gymnastics, USA), Haile Gebrselassie (Long distance running, Track and Field, Ethiopia), Sergey Bubka (Pole Vault, Ukraine), Wu Minxia (Diving, China), Ian Thorpe (Swimming, Australia) and Dara Torres (Swimming, USA). Stars such as the legendary swimmer and Olympic record holder for the most medals, Michael Phelps of the US and the runner, Usain Bolt of Jamaica will be remembered and will continue to inspire for years to come.

I would (and still do) eagerly wait for events such as gymnastics, swimming, diving and synchronised swimming. The Games are a place where you can savour the breadth and beauty of human diversity, hearing obscure, normally unpronounceable names from Latvia to Laos, Ecuador to Ethiopia, and the United States to the United Arab Emirates. It is one common ground to see the multicoloured flags of so many nations and also get to know the new countries that have recently been born.

As one of my friends said, you also get to see the people from every corner of this planet, what they look like and sometimes even hear a smattering of their languages.

The opening ceremony was a delight for history and literature buffs featuring scenes from the Industrial Revolution, the pre-Industrial pastoral lifestyle, the various literary characters from Harry Potter to Alice in Wonderland and all that make Britain a great contributor to humanity.
Some comparisons to the spectacular show that the Chinese put up about four years ago at Beijing did pop up in my circle, but, I think each country showed us something unique, their culture and history, beautiful people and garments, dance and music.

The highlight of the evening was, of course, the James Bond clip, featuring Queen Elizabeth II with the actor Daniel Craig, and then the Queen jumping off a helicopter above the actual Olympic stadium:) (even if it was a stunt double who did the actual jump). I have watched many opening and closing ceremonies, full of pomp and colour and co-ordinated dances, but, wow! This particular sequence will be probably etched in my memory for years to come.
Dances and costumes, parades and visual effects fade from memory but characters like Bond and a very formal, famous royal, known for her reserve, performing such a daring act, stay much longer.
Danny Boyle, the well known director of movies such as "Slumdog Millionaire", pulled off a commendable feat.

Now that the Games will soon come to a close, there will be withdrawal symptoms for sure. The motto "Inspire a Generation" does hold true, I believe. Along with my friends and family, I have been inspired to work out, stretch, get fit and accomplish my goals. If an event can get you off the couch and do something, it is well worth the time, money and media coverage.

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