Monday, March 01, 2010

Reflections of Olympics in Vancouver 2010

These 2 weeks have been exhausting, exhilarating and for the most part, extraordinary. The Games began on a tragic note plus a number of embarrassing moments. Among them, the tragic death of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, has cast a dark shadow over the Games, even before the official opening ceremony. Even the Opening ceremony has an embarrassing moment when one of the four hydraulics failed to lift up all the cauldrons for the Olympic light-up. There were hiccups here and there, from overwhelmed transport facilities to anti-Olympic protesters. Yet, the small and gradual small victories culminate in the sweetest victory of it all: Canada defeating the USA 3-2 in a dramatic finale of the ice-hockey gold medal game. Canadians across the country reserve the greatest celebration until the moment when Sidney Crosby scores the golden goal. It is an epic moment. Nothing is sweeter than an ice-hockey championship.

After a 24 hour breather, minus the emotions, I want to write down some of my reflections. Here goes.

Pre-Olympic Moments
As a host nation, it is usually expected that the host country wins some gold medals in any Olympic event. Unfortunately, Montreal and Calgary failed to deliver any gold winning athlete. Enough is enough, many say. In Vancouver, Canada will not be third time unlucky. Canada decides to come back with a vengeance. After hosting 2 previous Olympics without any golds won on home ground, the organizers spearheaded a controversial "Own The Podium" campaign and invested millions of dollars to ensure that Canada, in its third Olympic hosting attempt, will at last rake in gold on home soil. It is not just about winning gold. It is about the rise of national pride.

During the Olympics
A national confidence displayed beautifully each of the 17 nights through united singing of "O Canada!" It is moving to see people celebrating wildly, without any reservations. Regardless of ethnic differences, language difficulties or cultural uniqueness, every person on the streets share a common red and white on their bodies and their garments. It looks like the time has come for Canada to assert itself more confidently.

Frankly, Canadians were a little slow in embracing the Games. Some Vancouverites were rather skeptical, thanks to the influence of the anti-Olympic movement, who paraded their anti-government and anti-homeless social agenda. The turning point I believe was the violence and vandalism brought about by some hooligans from outside BC. The typical person in the street shifts from sympathy to disgust. Such behavior is grossly UN-Canadian. After that, not only did the protesters tone down their publicity, more of the public comes out to support the games, through party, not partisan agendas.

After the Games

1) The Media
CTV and the various members of the Olympic media consortium have done a great job. They did not tell people what to do, unlike some propaganda stations. They simply reported on the events and invite viewers in to come and join them. I like the way that the presenters interview the various athletes, their families and the typical happy face on the street. The Olympics will never have become such a big focus in the living room and at social gatherings without the TV and news stations. Indeed, for 2 full weeks, many of us were glued to the TV set.

The media has been mightily and effectively used to hype up drama and excitement to move the nation. The commercials are creatively done to mesh the product and services with the culture of the people. For example, the Coke commercial that rides on the passion of a hockey mad nation. Yet, for all its benefits, I am still somewhat concerned about how powerful the media has become in the lives of people.

My Take: When people becomes overly trusting of any media, what happens if the media comes under bad influence?  Even as we watch TV, we ought to remain vigilant and watchful over negative influences. This is especially so when hype is generated to the point that emotions overwhelm the rational mind. For this matter, I think the Coke advertisement that claims to 'show them whose game it is,' can become a liability instead. What if Canada lost yesterday's game to the US?

2) The Nature of Competitive Sports
Winning is something that many aims for. However, behind every winner belies years of hard work and many failures. Many of the gold medal athletes did not have it easy. Just research any of them, you will see that the agonies outweighs the joys. I keep reminding my kids that every single competitor who tried their best deserves our best applause.This ought to be the emphasis. Sadly, most of the media attention continues to be upon the gold medal athletes. In the world of fame and name, the Olympics despite all its honorable intent, attention still shines on the winners, and seldom on the rest.

My Take: Without the rest, there will be no best. Thus, every medalist must always remember that there is no room to boast of one's achievements. Without the support of country, family, friends and the opportunities to train, there will not even be a chance to participate. Participation in itself is already an honor. Whether one wins or loses, it is important to compete well, and fair. That said, I believe that even as we rejoice with the winners, may we also remember that everyone else, even the spectator ought to be motivated to do their best in whatever they do. This is the essence of true competition.

3) The People and the Party
For nearly every night, downtown Vancouver was alive and well. People are in a party mood all the time. They literally paint themselves and the whole town red. My wife said to me that 'people are so happy.' The Winter Olympic Games is a special once in four years event. Having it in our city makes it even more special. Department stores and various business welcome the world. The free attractions put up by the Olympic organizers are by themselves a good enough reason to hop on a bus to go downtown.

My Take: The way that people party themselves away is a nice scene to see. It is not often that we get to see people expressing freely and openly themselves. Canadians after all, are rather reserved compared to our neighbors South of the border. Is this a case of releasing some pent-up feelings about Canadian pride and patriotism? Or is it simply an opportunity to enjoy the moment while it lasts? Something tells me that it is both.

4) The Ability to Laugh at Ourselves
The Opening Ceremony was embarrassing, at least for Catriona Le May Doan. The cauldron malfunction meant that she was not able to light up the fourth flame during the ceremony. I think the organizers did well to tie up this 'loose end' at the closing ceremony with a hearty mine. I think this is a nice part about being Canadian, the ability to laugh at ourselves and in our laughing, provide a way of redemption.

[Photo Credit: ABCNews]

"The closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games has begun with the organizers poking fun at themselves. The lights dimmed and a mime appeared from a hole in the stage with two extension cords. He connected the cords, sparks flew, and suddenly the fourth arm of the cauldron rose from the floor. Then Canadian speed skater Catriona Le May Doan appeared and did what she couldn't do during the opening ceremony when the arm failed to rise from the floor at B.C. Place -- she lit the fourth arm. The entire cauldron came to life and the crowd erupted in cheers." (WindsorStar liveblog)

My Take: I must credit the organizers for this brilliant move in highlighting the imperfectness of human organizing (through the failed 4th hydraulic), and to make amends (through spirited humor). There is something about human nature. On the one hand, we like to see things done to perfection. Yet, on the other hand, we like to see things that mirror our imperfectness which keeps us humble. The Olympics gives us room to enjoy both the perfecting attempts, as well as the imperfect moments. Frankly, I find the ability to laugh at self more disarming, and more inviting.

5) Believe!
This theme is a winner. We may plan to achieve a certain goal. We may even train hard to win golds. However, without a deep seated belief, it is difficult. This is perhaps the most significant effect of the Games. It shows us that with believe, we can make the impossible possible, the unreachable reachable, and to bring the unimaginable home. The Ice Hocky gold medal game is but one example. We can think of all the possible emotions that could have happened if Sidney Crosby failed to score, or if Team USA shoots a goal past Luongo in overtime. All those remain possible scenarios then. However, the fact is that they did not happen. Team Canada won. Canadians believed. Team Canada delivered. Everybody won.

My Take: There are so many Olympic moments to appreciate and learn from. From the courage of Joannie Rochette, to Alexandre Bilodeau's famous 1st gold for Canada, to the beauty and grace of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. All of them are but a few golden moments to remember and to cherish. However, let us not forget that life must go on. Winners or not, all of us can continue to be winners as we believe. As Christians, we have even better reasons to believe. If the Olympic flame is a glimpse of hope in this world. let us maintain our eyes on the Hope of the World, of the Son of God will is the Light of the World.


No comments:

Latest Posts