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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics and The Beauty of Its Spectacle

As I watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, it amazed me to see a choir sing as drumsticks struck smaller versions of the London Eye and the Tower Bridge. When the Olympics began centuries ago, they were a test of the finest athletes. Although our culture has evolved and our technology has inspired a spectacle of lights, the heart of the games remains unchanged. In the age of Twitter and the internet, results were known before the events aired. But that didn't matter. The spirit of the games remained pure. And it was a joy to watch.

These athletes are the best of the best. They've dedicated their lives to represent their countries by excelling in whatever sport has called them. Sixteen-year-old children who've known nothing but pursuing their goals. Thirty-somethings who've been declared beyond their prime fighting for one last medal. They've awakened before dawn their entire lives in the pursuit of one goal. To be deemed the best. To stand on a podium, hear their national anthem, and have a medal placed around their neck.

Last night's closing ceremonies were a stark contrast to the hard work and sweat these athletes have endured. Men paraded across the stage in yellow suits, hung from harnesses, and wore party hats to participate in a spectacle. Beefeaters carried tubas. The silliness belied the hard work the men and women who participated in the games put into the last four years. Into their lives. Why did the closing ceremonies have to be such pomp and circumstance? It seemed so disconnected from the actual games. Then I realized why. If I were a gymnast who'd sacrificed my childhood. My life. Hamburgers and chocolate. If I were a Kenyan runner who came across the world to race for one minute and forty seconds. If I were from South Africa and made history as the first double-amputee Olympian, who ran 400 meters in just over 46 seconds, I would want a spectacle. An over-the-top party. I would want princes and pop stars and acrobats celebrating my life-long work. My accomplishment of simply being present at the Olympics, much less setting world records. I would want exactly what last night was.

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