International Affairs Specialist by day, Blogger Enthusiast by night. This is a sneak peek into my world that should be enjoyed with ample time and a good and very strong cup of java.
As Olympic buzz starts to buzz louder as the opening ceremonies approach, I have flashbacks to the film, “Cool Runnings” – not for its cinematic genius or compelling script, but rather its demonstration of national pride and perseverence that the atheletes carry with them on their journey to the Olympics. It’s perhaps national pride that I can even remember the film, starring John Candy and taking place in Calgary – the film itself found a washed-out Candy on the shores of Jamaica, training washed-out track athletes to use their talents on the bobsled track, landing themselves in the middle of the Calgary Games. It’s truly a cute and funny film, but it exemplified exactly what the Games were about; competition, national pride, hard work, teamwork, equality, and many other exemplary qualities which make it perfect for kids and adults alike to enjoy.
Turning to the athletes of the national teams, who have the rare opportunity to represent their country which has, for better or worse, given them the chance to go to the world stage and show the world exactly what they and their nation is about, be it, drug enhancing performances, judges who sell out or the dignified tumble that is talked about for years to come. It should be an honor and to some, it may be life-altering. Such is what I’m sure the Togo football team must have been thinking on their way to the Africa Cup in Angola or the Sri Lankan Cricket Team in Pakistan, or even the Israelis in Munich. I doubt that any would have thought they were risking their lives in doing so.
Pride and competition drive international games, but it’s the ugly cousins; animosity and violence, who accompany it, particularly when tension exists between and among communities, nations, cultures and religions, that turn a harmless athletic event into a deadly riot. Make no mistake, these attacks on national teams are terrorist acts and it is just as symbolic to an attack on a national monument, but too often we brush the incidents aside into the pile of sports fanatic behavior.
And so, as we countdown to the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver and as security beefs up at the airports, harbors, borders, tramways, subways, train stations and pedestrian avenues and knowing that the complaints are sure to muffle the sounds of exited spectators, we must remind ourselves that it is done in the name of security and maintaining a peaceful and competitive spirit to the Games, where politics and personal grudges are left at the sidelines and the sport can be enjoyed for what it is, a sport.