How I Saw This Olympics!
By Binoy Thomas
The thirty-third edition of Olympics Games concluded in London, England, lest you mistake our own chota London for the real thing! It was the third time that this storied city that can truly claim to have reshaped the world was hosting the games, and all was well in the end. At a price tag of anywhere between 9 to 11 billion pounds, it better be. That’s a whack of money to be spending in 17 days, but countries are driven by the need to show off, just like some of us, and this is one way of doing it, brand building. The rest of the talk of returns on investment is so much hogwash. Toronto, are you listening? Brazil, the B in BRIC, is next, and they are overflowing with riches, created by a resource based economy that is booming. Now they want to step up to the podium. Will India be next? It will be the only BRIC nation left out of the Olympics heats.
Maybe, a record six medal tally that the team brought home will have policymakers thinking, why not an Olympics in New Delhi? After all, as one report mentioned, Delhi Commonwealth Games had more toilets per athlete than the London Olympics. A good start that.
India missed on some ‘sure’ winners like Abhinav Bindra, but persevered and won where medals didn’t come easy. But the most inglorious defeat happened on the field hockey arena, where India came last. Imagine, this is the country that used to regularly come home from the Olympics, with one shining medal, the one where it dominated the field completely for decades, before the cracks created by politics or policy, started robbing them of motivation. When you come last, it’s not good enough to say the others played better – you didn’t play at all, given the potential.
Across the border in Pakistan, there is much soul-searching too on the reasons why their squad came home empty-handed. Perhaps, if some of that terrorist zeal can be redirected to the sports arenas, and employ that ‘killer instinct’ productively, it would produce better results internationally for the country (on both counts!)
I did take in some of the highlights via replays that ran through midnight, and there were moments that stay with you. Like the tears that follow a triumph or tragedy, so real, that it jolts you into the realization that most tears that you see on TV these days, have either a script writer behind it, or a motivated TV reporter trying to create visual impressions on the audience. Canada equalled the medal tally from Beijing, and when you take their impressive gains at the 2010 Winter Olympics, we seem to have struck a winning streak. Incidentally, was that a Govinda-breaking-the-pot-scene from Janmashtami that some of our athletes were trying to recreate during the closing ceremony? They were told to dismount by the security. Next time, I suggest they try it in Parel, Mumbai, they will carried on shoulders and feted. Canada’s Own The Podium seems to be bearing fruits, and hopefully, it wont be hijacked by those who insist, ‘all are winners’, never mind that you failed the school exams, or crashed out of a tournament. Only losers or freeloaders will say a thing like that. But they do get traction within newspaper editorial rooms and academic circles. Only in Canada! The guy who came eighth behind all-time record holder, Michael Phelps, knows and accepts that he lost to a better athlete, and the medal doesn’t belong on his chest. If it’s left to our own gang of losers, they will each be given medals, minted at union shops of course!
Sorry, I was on the fair games, didn’t mean to divert to silly politics. Moving on to the opening ceremony, it did feature a number of Bhangra players, England being well-served by its Sikh population all these decades. This is the kind of exposure that brings real understanding and acceptance of a culture, rubbing shoulders with the best in the world, and showcasing an identity in a modern, secular setting. And dare I add, not images of radicals with blazing eyes, seeking separate homelands, but the calm and benign face of a Manmohan Singh whom the whole world wants to make their finance minister!
The closing ceremony was a brilliant musical, featuring some the most famous and enduring figures from English music, starting with Freddie Mercury (or Freddie Balsara, the Parsi boy from Mumbai, as we would like to describe him), shifting to John Lenon singing ‘Imagine’, which may well become, sometime in the distant future, an anthem of a truly united world.
There were many moments and movements that made one emotional during this Olympics. But the best part that touched me was the tentative steps that a Saudi Arabian female athlete took in a judo ring. Unfortunately, a lot of attention got diverted with the hijab controversy, but it was indeed, a world-changing event. I couldn’t but help but applaud Wojdan Shaherkani, the enormity of her action, the nervousness, the shyness, the anticipation, and the sheer innocence of a rather chubby younger sister, all writ large on her person, as she arrived, lovingly guided by her brother. This is contrary to what everyone knows about Saudi Arabia, and yes, most of it might still be true as far as women’s status in that country is concerned. That makes this debut all the more laudable because, for as little as baring a face or facing a camera, there are people who would kill you. In this contest, we need to stand up in appreciation of Shaherkani and yes, her brother, who while protecting her, not smothering her, also allowed her to fly and realize her potential. Let’s also acknowledge the decision-makers in that country, whether from the ruling family or other levels of progressive society, that led to this moment in history. It may have been a small step for mankind, but for women everywhere, especially in the Islamic world, this is a giant leap for womankind.
Shaherkani, the Saudi female athlete, takes a giant leap.
Short URL: http://www.weeklyvoice.com/?p=16945