Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
August 19th, 2012 by Admin

Olympic memories that will linger

OLYMPIC GAMES: One of the pastimes of London Bookies is to wager on any and all things: even if it was a wafer thin fantasy. But there was one during London 2012 that blew one’s mind, if not one’s hair. And that was when bets were accepted on whether the fabled hair of London’s Mayor Boris Johnson will catch fire when the Olympic Torch is carried close to him! The chances, as predicted, were that it would and the bets were stacked in favour. But then Johnson upset the stakes. The ‘mop-topped’ Johnson went and had a haircut. Some people lost their shirts!

In the end however, Johnson was the one who swept the chips off the table when he delivered what is now regarded as one of the best presented Olympics Games. The Boris antics and achievement included dangling from a zip line at a viewing site to the consternation and amazement of the other viewers. Later it drew a comment from British Prime Minister David Cameron who stated: if any politician anywhere in the world gets stuck on a zip wire, it would, you know, be disastrous; but for Boris, it is an absolute triumph. He defies all forms for gravity!

Whatever the forces that propelled the success of the London Olympics with an estimated cost of US dollars 15 Billion. (the Beijing Olympics cost US dollars 40 Billion), it will be remembered for a long time to come for some of its historic feats and histrionics.

When Michael Phelps became the most decorated Athlete of all time— with a vault full of 22 Golds—-it raised a question as to how long it will take anyone to beat the record set by this 27 year old. The Washington Post captured the achievement so aptly when the headline screamed ‘Strokes of Greatness.’

Bolt US dollars 50 million a year

Such is the impact of this achievement, that Sponsor Hub, a company that brokers endorsements estimates that Phelps and the other genius Usain Bolt could earn upto a staggering US dollars 50 million a year in endorsements.

With the stirring performances of Phelps and Brian Lochte—who beat Phelps in the individual medley—the fascination with swimming events grew and television viewership soared. It informed us through ‘Omega: the complete book of the Olympics’ as to the innovations that have been brought in computerized timing.

For instance an angled kick plate allows swimmers a stronger push-off. While false starts are judged by officials, the blocks can detect pressure release and note reaction time. Lights along the blocks flash at the starting sound and later display the finish order. A swimmer stops the clock by touching a pad at the end of each lane. When the pad’s surface is compressed by two millimetre, an electric contact records the time.

If the Phelps and the Bolt reverence, inspired fans across the globe, there were some other really exhilarating performances that should have their legitimate claim on Olympic history.

Grenada smallest nation to win gold

Take 19 year old Kirani James of Grenada in the Caribbean. His country has a population of one hundred and four thousand (104,000). When Kirani won the 400 metres dash he made his country the smallest nation to win a Gold Medal. In fact Grenada is the 17th smallest country in the world! Not surprising, therefore, the Government of Grenada declared a national half-holiday in celebration and they danced through the night.

Another achievement that was worthy of a holiday, at least in spirit, was that of the Women’s 4×100 relay which the US won in dramatic fashion shattering a 27 year old world record that was jealously guarded by East Germany.

For those who watched the event, what was thrilling was the manner in which the anchor Carmelita Jeter –as one correspondent eloquently put it—finished with a touch of Usain Boltesque showmanship when she pointed at the clock as she crossed the finish line.

If that was showmanship, then there was the demonstration of absolute resolve and determination that was seen in another US athlete Mantet Mitchell who broke the outer bone between his knee and ankle (fibula) but kept running to help his team to complete the 4x 400 relay heats. If he had stopped the US would have been out of the final.

Bahamas and US dominance

While The Bahamas won the finals ending 28 year dominance by the US, the story of Manteto Mitchell will endure especially when you heard him say later “I even heard the small bone in my left leg break, but I did not want to let those three guys down.”

But all this pales into insignificance when we all marvelled at South African Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee who ran in the semifinals of the 400 meters on two prosthetic legs. And it was heart rending at the end of the race to see Kiran James –the Gold Medallist referred to above- in an act of true sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour requesting Pistorius to swap name tags!

Perhaps one of the bigger upsets of the Olympics was the defeat inflicted by Mexico on Brazil—- the next hosts of the Olympics. In a 2-1 victory filled with drama, Mexico stunned the Brazilians, and the capacity crowd in Wembley Stadium, with a goal within 28 seconds of the kick off!

Guor Marial – a ‘stateless person

One of the more touching and enduring memories of the London 2012 is that of Guor Marial a Southern Sudanese who ran the Marathon as a ‘stateless’ person. Marial was born in Southern Sudan and immigrated to the US but he is not a US Citizen yet. He was asked to run under the Sudanese flag, but being from Southern Sudan he wanted to run for the new nation of South Sudan.

Yet, he could not do so as South Sudan has no Olympic Committee. As an exception he was allowed to run under the IOC flag giving him effectively the status of a global citizen.

Here is the rub: when he was born in War torn South Sudan, according to a Yahoo Sports report, he saw 28 of his family members killed, including eight of his 10 siblings. He ran out of South Sudan in search of freedom. And with his running at London 2012 he carried with him a haunting message –that the spirit of the Olympics should transcend all barriers and set an example of liberation for all who are oppressed.