Friday, February 12, 2010
Vancouver Olympic Kickoff--Friday Journal
A few thoughts tonight about the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I feel an excitement this year that I have not sensed surrounding the Games for a very long time.....
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I expect a huge audience for tonight's Olympic Opening Ceremonies, continuing a trend I have recently observed. Lately, the big TV specials, like the the Golden Globes and the Grammy Awards, and the Super Bowl with its historic ratings, are commanding big viewership. I wonder--is it because we are feeling our isolation, lost as we are in all of the many technologies that allow us to "connect", without having to see or touch a real human being, our gazes fixed as they are on our electronic screens? Are we craving a shared experience more than ever, to deal with the sobering events of the world, and a future so difficult to predict? Is it just an extreme case of cabin fever after a punishing winter across the country?
If any event is worthy of attention, able to provide a pure community experience we can share with friends and strangers the world over, the Olympic Games is it, giving us a focal point for our need to reach out and enthuse over the efforts of eager, talented people. Winners win and take the stage, losers are not voted out of the village, or humiliated by a disinterested celebrity judge. Except for the occasional brass of media intrusion, it is a pleasure to stand with people from other lands, some of which we grow up believing are hostile to us, and yet we feel relieved, blessedly free of animosity.
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Of course there is a sense of pride in the home team. We thrill to the athletic competition, and there is a feeling of fellowship in that....Only the media tend to frame the Games in terms of rivalry, in which it is our patriotic duty to take sides, to pay more attention to the gold medal count and to manufactured celebrity, instead of allowing viewers to
breathe, and enjoy a rare feeling of personal connection to athletes of many countries. Team America has my admiration, but not to the exclusion of the other teams; so this time I want to learn more about the unique indivduals from around the world, and their stories. Maybe the networks will find the time or inclination to enrich their coverage in this way .
The Olympic Web Site provides excellent information about all of the events, competitions, and best of all, the athletes and the countries represented in the competition.
For example, I'm looking forward to learning more about the following:
--The six athletes from Iran, all in skiing competitions, one of whom is female(the story of her achievement, and her experience as a woman traveling with a predominantly male team from a male-centric culture, could be interesting);
--The lone young man representing Pakistan in the Alpine Skiing competition;
--Chinese Taipei (Taiwan's) sole team member in the Luge event, and how his little contingent had to negotiate, or capitulate, to mainland China (for example, the flag they were "allowed" to carry during the parade of countries);
--The tiny country of Andorra managing to pull together a team of six, in Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding;
--India's Luge team member, Shiva Keshavan, who almost missed his fourth Olympic Games because his sled broke during practice, and how the Supreme Court of India personally contributed about $10,000 to replace it;
--The Games' oldest athlete, from Mexico, Hubertus von Hohenlohe, 51 years old, an Alpine skiier.
There are many more.
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Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Luge competitor from Georgia, was killed in a practice run. He was 21 years old. The camaraderie of the world's young athletes was sealed with this tragedy. In his or her own way, each athlete's competition will be dedicated to Nodar. We will hear more soon about the excessive speed of the track. For now, a cloud will hover over the Games.
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Does anyone feel like holding back a bit from the celebration, knowing that half a world away, Haitians are still suffering? Are we uncomfortable that the story of the earthquake has faded, and is in danger of being ignored, in favor of the two-week competition and party that is the Olympics?
Thankfully, there is a connection between the Haitian Relief Effort and the Olympic games. At tonight's Opening Ceremonies, plans were underfoot to premier the new version of "We Are The World", recorded just after the Grammy Awards, with the video directed by Paul Haggis, and with the participation of musicians contemporary and classic. "All proceeds from "We Are the World" singles and video sales will go to the newly formed charity We Are the World Foundation LLC and will then be distributed to Haiti relief efforts"...
(Postscript: I missed this segment of the show, and will seek the video on line tomorrow. I have noticed mixed reactions on-line so far, so I am anxious to see it for myself. ).
LET THE GAMES BEGIN.......