Thursday, February 13, 2014
Self-Giving at the Olympics
The current incarnation of the Olympics, all Olympics, whether summer or winter make me queasy. Even in the recent past they were a celebration of excellence in sport; higher, faster, stronger. Now they are a gross nationalist spectacle, often a showpiece for the bloated egos of leaders in the host nation. The world turned a blind eye to the history of human rights violations in Beijing, and in Sochi the controversy over Russia's oppressive homophobic laws has tainted the games, not to mention the 50 billion dollar price tag. Already there are stories out of Brazil about poor neighbourhoods being razed for venues and the high costs in a country where so many struggle to get by.
I won't go too far because I'm married to an enthusiastic Olympic Games fan, and as always its exciting to see our athletes, so young and committed, striving to achieve what may seem impossible for virtually all of us. After watching our slopestyle skiers I have decided to give up the sport.
And then there are the stories which almost transcend the athletic accomplishments. A Canadian coach, Justin Wadsworth, who is actually an American, charges down a hill with a spare cross-country ski for a Russian competitor whose own ski is in tatters. It allows the Russkie to finish the race with dignity. Heart-warming.
Again we saw Alex Bilodeau winning gold and sharing the moment with his developmentally challenged brother Frederic.
What about Canadian speed-skater Gilmore Junio who gives up the grand public stage of the 10,000 metre race so that a teammate who had a chance to medal could compete -- and did in fact win a silver?
All high-level athletes are different from the rest of us in terms of endless hours of repetitive training, of deferring other goals, and relinquishing a regular social life. But they have the prospect of glory, even if it just to compete on the world's biggest stage. These stories of generosity and self-sacrifice touch us in a different way, it seems to me. There is a gospel feel to them, at least from my perspective as a "gospel guy." Whoever wants to find his life must lose it, Jesus said, and we get glimpses of this in these moments.
Have your hearts been warmed by these stories? Do you find them to be just as important as medal counts? Do you wish you were related to these individuals?