The Olympics offers us a glimpse into life, patriotism, courage, corruption and perseverance and commitment. There are tragedies, travesties, fairy tales in real time and a whirlwind of metaphors and parables being woven in the ether. I don’t know if I need the official approval of the IOC to even type the O word or some official credential to tell a story or offer my perspective from afar but I will chance it this morning and offer some observations. The words here are generalized and if it sounds like I am stating a fact, well I am likely not.
Let’s begin with the heroism. I admit that I seem to have a need for heroes, especially if they have fallen from grace and had some type of redemption. Prior to the Rio games I wasn’t a fan of Michael Phelps. There wasn’t any animosity or distaste, just ambivalence. His records and performance were impressive but I didn’t cheer for him. This year, his back story and rehabilitation meant something more. A Joseph Campbell hero saga story was crafted by circumstances, agents and media and I found myself rooting for his return to the top of the podium. The conquering hero didn’t disappoint. With all the drama of a James Cameron movie (one in the making?) Michael took on the challengers, heir apparents, and wanna bes. If there is a lesson rather than hype, it might be that we are created to overcome odds and like Von Goethe says we need to be committed.
For Canadians, the new hero, with her own guest in the background, is Penny Oleskiak. Rather than a vanquishing dragon slayer, she is the protagonist with humility. Her medals and individual results don’t overshadow the team she is a part of. As a reluctant hero, she is charming and humble. I suspect that there was some story crafting before the games and some editing and adapting since they started but in her story we see hard work, determination, genetics, and hope. We can all use more of three of those.
There are so many athlete successes from the Refugee Team to the Fijian 7s that speak to what I understand the O to symbolize but tantrums, favoritism, missed opportunity and cowardice have raised their heads too. For me the corrupt action of decision makers in disregarding drug testing reports in order to save face and appease a nation embroiled in the scandal is the antithesis of these symbols.
I struggle to understand how men and women could condone illegal action by athletes and state and still hold the rings high. There has been many suggestions that we should hold Juicer Games where anyone can compete regardless of steroid or HGH or genetic manipulation. Somewhat tongue in cheek, they say they would love to see how fast, high, strong we could be before exploding.
Away from the games Bill Murray offered a better comparison. He would like there to be an average Jane or Joe in every race just so we can actually understand how remarkable these performance are. It would give us pause to realize that 64th in the world is still 10’s of times faster, higher, stronger than most humans on the planet could achieve.
As we move into the track and field, where there is sure to be controversy, I am choosing to stay focused on the best of the games – the athletes, coaches and teams who represent excellence, honesty, fair play and generosity.
Make Today Remarkable, by being inspired,