Continuing the Spirit of the Olympics

What did everyone think of the Olympics? It was an anthropological experience in my family. It was wonderful to see China again, to know every viewer was tasting its beauty and bounty, at least visually. It brought memories flooding back. It was also spectacular to hear such fond words spoken by announcers seeing the country and its people for the first time. We met spontaneous warmth and hospitallity when we visited China, matched only by the Chinese people’s talent, drive, and attention to every detail.  On top of that, we viewed part of the games in Canada, and it was interesting to compare the Canadian’s take on the events with the American’s take on them.

It was difficult to know who to cheer for. My daughter always cheered for China, and toward the end of the games, especially in the gymnastics competitions, I found myself torn if not downright grumpy. I wanted her to be proud of her heritage; however, I wanted her to realize her American roots went as deep into the earth as her Chinese ones. Beyond that, I was gritting my teeth when the gold for the unevens went to a beautiful Chinese girl who looked a year or so older than my daughter, who is 9 years old–even though she had tied with an American (who ironically also has roots in another culture). It just didn’t seem fair.

Yet there my daughter sat, cheering, and after a few minutes, I began cheering, too. The Chinese winner was obviously so elated, and also so congratulatory to her competitors, that it was impossible for me not to be happy for her.

Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about? Different cultures competing against each other, stretching themselves their very limit, to reach their own, and often the world’s, pinnacle, in a peaceful, joyful way? Each time they compete, they are reaching toward a goal that no one has ever achieved before. Each time, athletes strive to be the best in the world, just as nations do. 

The athletes’ shining faces made all the bickering behind the scenes that the media seemed fixated with seem, well–petty. Olympians are taught not to argue–among one another or with the judges. Of course they want to win. Of course they have opinions. Yet it seems that this code of conduct results in unselfishness, even when things don’t work out quite right. What would happen if we all shed our grievances and showed some goodwill to each other like these Olympic athletes–when we yield at a four-way stop sign or hold the door open for the person behind us, when an elderly disabled person is walking in front of us, when we’re asked to sacrifice or give of ourselves, be it a donation to a cause or land in the name of peace? A little less arrogance? A lot more self-control? Think how much more peaceful our days could be. Think how many conflicts could be averted? Think about how many more people might still be alive.

Just some food for thought straight from Mount Olympus.