Rio Olympics being barely 3 weeks away, let’s take a trip down memory lane to some of the memorable instances of the international multi-sport event.
No other sportsperson in the history of sport has received so much of love and support as Mohammad Ali. His never abdicating ideals for fame or wealth, exemplary dignity bought for him the honor to light the Olympic cauldron in Atlanta, 1996. Diagnosed with Parkinson disease 12 years back, shivering, he lit the lamp.
KOREA UNDER ONE ROOF
It was a spectacular moment in Sydney, 2000, when two countries who were officially at war, marched under the same flag. A flag with the map of undivided Korea was carried by Chun Un Soon, a South Korean basketball player and Park Jung Chon, a North Korean Judo coach. This episode witnessed the same flag, same uniform and a folk song- which marked a transient moment in history, where the true countries let slip away the past and embosomed the future.
BEAUTY OF AFRICA
Derartu Tutu, a white South African and Elena Meyer, an Ethiopian finished first and second in 10000 meters. The two Africans celebrated their victory hand in hand, step by step. It was the beauty of two South Africans to respect and recognize each other’s caliber and performance which lit up the dark continent.
REDEMPTION OFDAN JANSEN
Dan Jansen, the promising speed skater, was competing in the 1000 meters finals at Lillehammer. It was his last chance at redemption. Four years earlier at the Calgary games, he had competed in the 500 meters speed skating event hours after hearing the news of his sister Jane’s death. He had failed to make much of an impact. The jinx continued in Albertville. Whatever we refer, fate or an act of divine providence, whatever-he skated like never before, created a world record, and took home the gold.
Carter was not sending an American Continent to the Moscow Summer Olympics as The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. It was in this cauldron of spite that the American team comprising of mostly amateurs had just taken the lead against the mighty Soviets. Following ten minutes of intense hockey, the Soviets could not breach the American defense. With the countdown, ABC’s Al Michael’s immortal words ‘Eleven seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown’s going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Miracle! YES’, were accompanied by jubilation on the rink as well as the stands.
“ My country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5000 miles to finish the race” – these were the words of John Stephen Akhwari, who despite being wounded and having a dislocated knee, and the race being won by Momo Walde in 1968, joined the track and hobbled to the finish line. Though he couldn’t get the gold medal, he being a gem of a sportsperson gave true dignity to sport.
Year 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos rose a hand covered in a black glove with Peter Norman donning the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge. It is memorized as the most iconic score of protest at the Olympic games, but all three of them were shunned later. It was only years later that their act was to be recognized as a demonstration for dignity.
With just 175 meters to go in his 400 meters semifinal he pulled his hamstring. The dream didn’t end for Derek Redmond though. Weeping, he stood up again, only to try to finish on one leg. His father watching from the sidelines joins him with words of comfort – “We’ll finish together”.’ Strength is measured in pounds. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can’t measure courage’, were the words used by the IOC to promote the Olympic movement by the act of perseverance.
Nineteen-year-old German athlete gave Jesse Owens some advice – ‘play it safe, make your mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there.’ Owens, the grandson of a slave and the son of a sharecropper took the advice, qualified for the finals and scored up his tally of gold medals to four. The first to congratulate him was Luz Long. “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler… You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four carat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment,” he said, recounting the episode.
LIFE AS THE RACE
Pyambu Tuul represented Mongolia in the marathon at Barcelona in 1992 and came last. When asked why he was so slow, he replied “No, my time was not slow, after all you could call my run a Mongolian Olympic marathon record.” Another reporter questioned whether it was the greatest day of his life. To which came the reply which can throw anybody off their seats. “And as for it being the greatest day of my life, no it isn’t”, he said, “Up till six months ago I had no sight at all. I was a totally blind person. When I trained it was only with the aid of friends who ran with me. But a group of doctors came to my country last year to do humanitarian medical work. One doctor took a look at my eyes and asked me questions. I told him I had been unable to see since childhood. He said ‘But I can fix your sight with a simple operation’. So he did the operation on me and after 20 years I could see again. So today wasn’t the greatest day of my life. The best day was when I got my sight back and I saw my wife and two daughters for the first time. And they are beautiful.” Simple, ain’t it? It’s the races that we run within ourselves that are most important.