I have truly enjoyed the 2012 London Olympic Games (despite NBC’s best efforts to drain whatever enthusiasm I could sustain with their tape delays and sentimental, predictable narratives ostensibly of human interest but completely annoying to sports enthusiasts eager to actually see the competition whose results we had already glimpsed–but I digress). The athletes, particularly the women, were truly exceptional. I have enjoyed watching some of my favorite athletes, who aren’t necessarily famous outside of sporting circles, finally win gold medals; I am always a sucker for those who can win one for the home team so I cried like a baby when Jessica Ennis won gold in the heptathlon; I was touched when Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Attar, with her covered-up self, received a standing ovation for coming in dead last in her heat but being the first woman from her country to ever compete at the Games–another tear jerking moment; I was thrilled beyond measure when the U.S. Women’s 4×100 smashed the World Record for that event and was proud as could be when the 4×400 brought home the gold as well.
It was refreshing to be able to watch athletes who were not famous compete at the top of their game. I loved the unpolished way that they rambled off heartfelt, unimpressive yet genuine responses to basic questions about their performances. I was so happy for them and the freshness of what had occurred that it didn’t matter what they said because their inarticulateness bespoke a truth about originality and novelty: sometimes it just leaves you speechless.
Honesty, the truth of why athletes show-up, stands out as one of the many things that I enjoy about sports. Being coy or brimming with personality cannot replace the singular reason that athletes step-up to the line: they want to win; it’s an ever-present, abiding admission of a clear and undeniable desire–a spectacular truth. This was a Games that worked because this simple truth didn’t appear to be outshone by the glare of celebrity. Perhaps this was the case because of the sheer number of non-celebrity athletes competing and their volume dulled celebrity by comparison–or maybe patriotism does that…or maybe actual royalty does that…I’m not sure what it was but I can honestly say I was not annoyed by the narrative of celebrity that over-saturates this culture and bores me to no end. The London Games re-cast those terms and turned the USA basketball team into a group of men who wanted to win gold. To my surprise, I was as excited for the USA Men’s basketball team as I was for the Women’s squad.
I’m actually sad to have seen the Games come to an end. It’s been a great two weeks where the meaningfulness of hard work, discipline, focus, and even dreaming with intention really seemed to matter.