Pawns for Pride

Spirit of Olympics is individual achievement, not national glory

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After covering so many Olympics over the years, broadcaster Al Michaels was asked recently what stands out to him.

The U.S.’s 1980 hockey win against the juggernaut Soviet Union, he answered – and, in general, the whole idea of the entire world coming together over sports.

Many of those athletic endeavors, we might add, would never otherwise see the light of day – fencing, archery, badminton and the like.

We love that the less-glamorous sports get a day in the sun. That has to inspire hundreds of thousands around the world to take them up – and may give many people a pursuit, passion, and meaning in life they never otherwise would’ve had.

What a beautiful gift.

And where else are gymnasts – perhaps the world’s most versatile athletes, and humankind’s physical ideal – going to get the chance to make so many of us do flips over their talent?

But Michaels is right: The Olympics is the only thing that brings the entire world together.

“Don’t you wish the world could be like this all the time?” Michaels asked.


And it might be, if some leaders around the world understood the true beauty of the Olympics – which is not national pride so much as individual achievement.

Some countries get so caught up in the bragging rights – think communists here – that they try to become Athlete Factories. There are concerns about whether the training regimens there go beyond training to torture.

Then there are flat-out accusations of cheating – such as the badminton teams from South Korea, Indonesia and China that were disqualified last week after intentionally throwing matches to get weaker opponents later and easier paths to the gold medal.

That’s some stinking thinking there. That winning – for country, or for self – is more important than achieving.

As for the obsessive government-induced training, and perhaps cheating: National pride is one thing, but using young people as pawns for pride, well, that’s just despicable. It needs to stop.

But it never will, as long as world leaders see the state as sovereign, and individuals as tools to serve it.

Whether in team or individual sports, athletic achievements at bottom are individual achievements.

When we get to the point where all nations honor that ideal of the Olympic spirit, that will be a moment for Al Michaels, and the rest of us, to truly relish.

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Riverman1 08/06/12 - 06:31 am
I love sports, but not so

I love sports, but not so much the Olympics. Try to deny it or not, the Olympics is about nation against nation. I don't try to be a fan of badminton, gymnastics or other esoteric sports. Give me the most routine Braves game since it's not college football time yet and I'm happy. Having said that, congrats to Reese Hoffa from Lakeside for getting the Bronze medal.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/06/12 - 07:46 am
Regarding the badmitton thing,

When you set up a tournament-type event, and the organizers set the brackets up, it would seem like a logical and reasonable approach for the athletes to study the brackets and plot a strategy that they think would be their best chance for overall victory. If the strategy led to throwing an earlier game to improve their chances in later games, what's the problem? Strategy is as much a part of sports as is the physical exertion.

TParty 08/06/12 - 08:21 am
"National pride is one thing,

"National pride is one thing, but using young people as pawns for pride, well, that’s just despicable. It needs to stop."

Are you talking about the Gabby girl that won some gold?

"The Olympics is the only thing that brings the entire world together."

You would think the world would calm down for a moment when the new Rover landed on Mars, and started transmitting photos right away.

soapy_725 08/06/12 - 10:17 am
And a cold day in hell

would fit this category. The Olympics is a tremendous opportunity for young amateur athletes. The mere number who can compete and even fewer who can win medals. This should be the focus. Great Athletes. But as with most of the world activities the Olympics is all about MONEY/MARKETING, POLITICS and INFLUENCE PEDDLING. For all of its history and glory is cannot weed out cheaters. To expect this event to be analogous with world peace is a farce. It high drama put on display for the purpose of making money.

allhans 08/06/12 - 11:00 am
"THe Gabby girl" is not the

"THe Gabby girl" is not the only young person to win a Gold medal. Lots of others and some from extreme circumstances, some from very poor countries.
I am so proud of all the winners, the team of FIVE young American gymnasts (Gabby included, 0f course) who won the gold...the runners, the swimmers...The Olympics is not about only one person or one culture.

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