Olympics: Legacy beyond the Games
The greatest sporting extravaganza on Earth commenced last Friday with an opening ceremony that was watched by over a billion people. Even though the ceremony was not near the splash that Beijing offered, it offered an intriguing perspective about British history. While the charm of the games never seems to cease, the Olympic Games longevity is testimony to its legacy beyond the sporting arena.
Beacon of hope and power to change:
The global platform that the Olympics offer is something that no other event in the world can rival. The symbolism of an Olympic gold medal can go beyond the sporting spectrum. A prime example would be Jesse Owens victory in the 1936 Olympic Games. At a time where racism was rampant in Europe and the blacks were often castigated, Owens victory in the Olympic games showed the world the spirit of the black man. His phenomenal victories in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump, and the 4x100 meter relay team showed the world the spirit of the games and the power of the performance at the sporting extravaganza. These incidents have helped the games evolve and made it a memorable event across generations of people.
Transcending generations in a household:
The history of the Olympics has had such an unbelievable impact on the past generations. Every member of a household could relate to the Olympics at some level, be it the grandfather or the grandchild. Across generations the Olympics remains the pinnacle of excellence for any sportsperson to achieve. My dad emailed me how he recalled putting up a poster of Carl Lewis in 1984 in his room after he Mr Lewis won 4 gold medals! This recollection was after seeing a recent television show featuring Carl Lewis and his view on the current Olympics. To me, the greatest Olympic moment that I have witnessed would probably be the double 100 and 200m gold by Usain Bolt in Beijing and the indomitable Michael Johnson's 200 and 400m gold in Sydney. Irrespective of the generation, every single person has an Olympic moment to relate to, to recollect and to get inspired from. One of the most significant triumphs of the Olympic movement is its ability to transcend generations across people in various age groups in a household. In addition to this, the Olympics has also served as a reflection of geo political realities of the days.
Mirror of geo political and economic supremacy:
It has also been a mirror to the geo political realities of the super powers in the era. In the 1970's and 1980's the Olympics was dominated by the Americans, Soviet nations and the other European countries. Post 1990, the Chinese have made tremendous strides in dominating the Olympic arena after winning their first gold in 1984 Los Angeles Games. Today, China is on par with the US in the overall medal standings and in some ways, ahead of the US. In all these cases above, the Olympics served as a mirror of the supremacy of countries across the world. It is made on the assumption that sporting success reflects the economic supremacy of countries across the world. In addition, the rivalry between these nations adds more flavors to the competitive spirit and makes the games a notch above the rest.
Celebration of Failure as much as Victory:
In my view, the celebration of failure is the biggest ode to the Olympic movement. It is the only place where participation is considered a major accomplishment and it is celebrated as much as the victory. There are numerous instances which prove the spirit of the Games but none better than the Olympic Games in Barcelona, 1992. Derek Redmond from Great Britain (video below) had run half way in the 400 m but had sprained his ankle at the half way line. However, he did not give up. He slowly got up, limped all the way till the finish line with the help of his father who had jumped onto the track to help his son. The son and father got a standing ovation from the Barcelona crowd with tears of joy from the athletes. This incident echoes the spirit of the Olympics, the spirit to fight on despite the odds on the table. Events such as these reflect the power of the spirit of the Olympics, its ability to inspire and its grace to embrace failure as much as a victory.
All other events such as the world championships have a singular focus only on the sporting side of things. The Olympics, on the other hand, has various other symbolisms that go beyond the world of sport. It can be a beacon of hope, it has the unique distinction of transcending generations, it also reflects the geopolitical realities of the day and most of all, it celebrates the spirit of the games and failure like no other event.
Its not about winning, its about crossing the finishing line, that is the beauty of the Olympic Games
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More about Sriram Balasubramanian
Sriram Balasubramanian is a Journalist, voracious reader, avid Blogger, social enthusiast and a believer in excellence not mediocrity. With an inherent passion towards journalism and writing, he believes in playing the "Straight Drive" all the time. Besides this, he has a MS in Engineering Management and has played Chess for Singapore.
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