I'm an Olympics junkie, I admit it. I watch it faithfully every year. I have my favorite events (gymnastics, figure skating) but also find myself watching many things I never watch at any other time (diving, swimming, speed skating, and so many others) and enjoying it immensely. It always motivates me to train harder, push harder on a personal level. I appreciate the chance to see sports, and competitors, that I would never otherwise have a chance to appreciate. This year I found myself totally absorbed in the gold medal match for table tennis, a sport I'll freely admit I've never taken seriously before. It also gives me a lot of food for thought. So here are some of those thoughts.
Karate as an Olympic sport: There has long been a movement to add karate to the Olympics. I'm not, personally, a huge fan. The reason is that training for the Olympics is training for a specific end goal. I see karate as karate-do, a path I take through life, so I would hate to see that take a backseat to personal and patriotic glory. If it does make the slate, I'll watch it and hope for the best, but I would foresee a lot of champions leaving the dojo fairly soon after it was over.
Olympic spirit: One of the things I love most about the Olympics is the fact that a lot of very obscure people and countries (and sports, for that matter) get their moment on the international stage. People who could never make it to world championships get a chance to go out and show their hard work, and winning is so not the point in many cases. I think of the Jamaican bobsled team, I think of a Moroccan cross-country skier, and there are so many others, and to me they embody the best of the Olympics. Any time that gets lost in the hype over the winners, I feel sad.
Controversies: There are always a few incidents where judging is questioned, or an athlete's age or other credentials, or allegations of cheating arise, or allegations of drug use of some kind. This taints the whole thing, but goes with the territory. I most respect those who show grace in the face of disappointment, epitomized by this year's US gymnasts, who refused to complain, accuse, whine or pout, despite having a few good reasons to consider doing so.
Sportsmanship: Maybe it's my martial arts background, but I don't like to see winners gloat. It reminds me of a certain Nationals, when the winner of kumite walked around the ring doing a "raise the roof" after his final match. The faces of every sensei in the place froze into identical masks, regardless of age, nationality, or gender. Usain Bolt had every right to do a big victory celebration after his run, annoying though I found it, but starting it before the race was even over was undeniably insulting to the other racers. They had the misfortune to be out there with a natural phenom, they weren't going to beat him no matter how hard they tried, and that's how it goes. However, they had spent years of sweat and pain and tears to get there, and deserved at least to go home knowing the winner understood and respected that. A natural gift is just that, a gift. It doesn't convey the right to assume superiority over your fellow beings.
Closing ceremonies are Sunday, and life goes back to normal in our house after that. But the glow will remain awhile longer, and hopefully, so will some of the lessons and the motivation that I have gained.