Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Olympic spirit can live on ... if you let it.

“War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” (Edwin Starr)

That’s what I thought on Saturday night while watching prime time Olympic coverage on NBC. Tom Brokow, who continues to milk his authorship of “The Greatest Generation”, narrated what felt like an endless feature on Great Britain’s role in World War II. As the images of clashing armies and Adolph Hitler flashed across the screen, I winced. From a TV producer’s perspective, it was in bad taste and bad timing. As a global citizen, it felt toxic.

Up until then, the 2012 London Summer Olympics had a minimum of politicization. I enjoyed NBC’s coverage, which has focused on the peaceful human drama and competition between the world’s most fabulous athletes. It has been a glorious and sometimes exhilarating experience to witness 10,000 gladiators from more than 200 National Olympic Committees running, swimming, vaulting, jumping, diving, volleying, dribbling, shooting, serving, spiking, acing, riding, rowing, punching and medaling without international incident.

The Olympics can make you feel like the world is a better place than it seems most days. A stage where battlers hug their rivals and acknowledge world-class performances, even when the other guy or gal wins.

Maybe the truth is that we live in a mostly good world. But when we become obsessed with following violence, strife and political division, we lose sight of what’s typical. Aberration becomes average. Dysfunction seems mainstream. Perception is reality.

Most people are working hard to succeed and not terrorizing or harming their neighbors. Each of us struggles to triumph in his or her own little way in life. And every once in a while, we break a world record, even if it’s only in our little world.

In the weeks and months to come, I’ll be thinking back on the 2012 Summer Olympiad. When ships bump each other in the Straits of Hormuz, when politicians lob mud bombs in the endless American elections, and when economists predict financial catastrophe, I’ll try to remember the remarkable global unity and the power of positive energy that is the spirit of the Olympics.

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