The Bottom Line: Olympic Feats

August 15, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Connections
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For just over two weeks, people around the world were talking about nation facing nation, not on the field of combat, but rather in the spirit of competition. Every two years, the Olympic Games provide the opportunity for the global population to rally around their respective country's best-of-the-best and to admire—perhaps with secret envy—some of the most athletically talented people in the world no matter their nationality. Regardless of other world news, these games—if you can call such intense activities "games"—kindle a spark of commoderie as everyone shares one purpose: cheering on their nation's participants.

The unity of the XXX Olympics stretched far beyond the fields of London, as spirit of the Olympic Games almost always does. From backyards to barracks and from grocery stores to garrisons, conversations even between strangers began with "Did you see ... ?" followed by a detailed description of an incredible feat or an unfortunate error. Everyone had something in common; even if they didn't watch the hours of TV coverage, they had most likely heard the highlights.

Make no mistake, each country wanted to see its own athletes bring home an Olympic medal. But this year's games also had people rooting for teams and individuals despite which country they represented. Who wasn't curious whether Michael Phelps could win yet one more Gold Medal? Just how fast could Jamaica's olympian Usain Bolt run, and how many world records could he blow past? Could the dynamic mentor-protégé duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings accomplish a Gold Medal three-peat in the relatively new Olympic sport of beach volleyball? Could South African Oscar "Blade Runner" Pistorius hold his own despite prosthetic legs? Could Great Britain's Mo Farah, a refugee from Somalia, bring gold honor to his new home nation?

While the athletes literally heard the applause and screams in the stadium, they could not comprehend the full extent of their impact on the world. Although many nations often rally together to send aid after a time of great natural disaster, the Olympics is a worldwide unification with joyous and hopeful tones experienced from large groups down to individuals.

The bottom line is that the Olympics are living and thriving proof of more than national pride. They demonstrate that this kind of collaboration, cooperation and admiration not only is possible but actually occurs in this often beat-up world. It may be naïve to believe that this spirit can extend beyond fields, courts, tracks and swimming pools, but it isn't unreasonable to set it as a global goal.
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