Sunday, August 10, 2008

Advance Australia Fair

So, it's Summer Olympics time again... sporting rivalries, patriotism, joy and tears, all wrapped up into a neat little package of 24 hour media coverage. I have to say, I do love the Olympics. I think it started with the "Summer Olympics" game for our Commodore 64 computer. All the neighborhood kids came over to play it, and we were all so proud when we heard our anthem play after blowing another team out of the water (or off the track, balance beam, or whatever suited our fancy). We all wanted to be the big 'ole USofA, but if not, other countries had pretty good anthems too (Oh Canada! God Save the Queen! Kimigayo! Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza!), to which we would enthusiastically hum, if not sing, along. Then in 1984 the Olympics came to Los Angeles and my dad played in the Olympic orchestra at the Opening Ceremonies. It pretty much sealed the deal for me. My Olympic love was here to stay.

Cut to 16 years later and there I am, in Sydney, working at the 2000 Summer Games in the International Media Center. As an unofficial member of the press, I had access to the International Broadcasting Center, the Athletes Village and most of the Village. It was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience... one I'd have liked to repeat over and over again. The Aussies were welcoming hosts, greeting foreign guests with enthusiastic "G'Day!'s"-- and I, swept up in the pomp and circumstance, found myself chanting along with the crowds, "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" I even learned the country's national anthem "Advance Australia Fair." I don't think it's the love of sports (I mean, anyone who knows me knows that isn't it!), but I guess the spirit of comeraderie and, peace really, that it promotes. Being in the Olympic Village in Sydney was, well, for lack of a better word, magical. The competition wasn't marred by bitter rivalries or ill-will; even between countries that you would expect there to be some tension. It was the spirit of true sportsmanship that ruled throughout-- if only our governments could be so grown-up.

The Beijing Olympics are underway, and China started off with a bang. The media was clamouring for controversy, continually focusing in on President Sarkozy and speculating that the crowd would "boo" the French contingency when they walked into the stadium because of Sarkozy's threat to boycot. But what happened? A loud cheer broke out as they entered-- the greeting that all of the would-be champions, the strongest, fastest and most determined sportsmen from our nations, deserved. Take that, doubters. The Opening Ceremonies was the most spectacular that I've seen. And the media manipulation rampant, to which I always fall victim. An easy crier, I found myself sniffling throughout the show as they successfully tugged at my emotional strings. It's probably one of my favorite things about the Olympics-- that each and every person has a story-- athletes, families, workers and spectators alike. The most compelling of last night was probably the 9-year old boy who, buried in rubble after the earthquake earlier in the summer, dug his way out and went back to rescue two of his classmates. 20 out of the 30 students at his school died, and when asked why he went back, he answered, "I am a hall monitor; it's my job." He led the Chinese contingent, walking along basketball great, flagbearer Yao Ming. I know it's only the beginning, and I'm certain I can count on my friends at NBC to profile all the great athletes' sobbiest of stories.

So, here's our opportunity to show some country pride, no matter what country we're from. I'll be rooting for my US favorites, but don't be surprised if I break into a little "Australians all let us rejoice..." when my friends from Oz triumph too. After all, isn't that the spirit of the Olympics?


Talking Bridge said...

I'm crazy about the Olympics, too. The sound went out on our television one year (was it the Los Angeles Olympics where your dad played?) and we watched the whole saga with one broken TV on for the sound and another broken TV for the picture.

Talking Bridge said...

By the way, I love your "clamouring"--you've already learned to speak Brit!

NeasMom said...

I love the Olympics. I watched the Winter Olympics when Nanea was a newborn, and now 2.5 years later am doing the same thing with Makena. That is so strange!

Hero to the Masses said...

Where can I get a copy of Asahi Shinboom?