I'm a sap. I admit it. I watched much of the Beijing Olympics and loved it - starting with the utterly amazing opening ceremonies through this evening's closing which had its own flabbergasting moments. In between were several fantastic competitions; incredible team and individual performances.
Dave Nalle's recent article about the suppression of the press and human rights issues in China pointed up just how far away the country is from being an even remotely free society. There are a number of comments in response, including some written by yours truly charging that the International Olympic Committee was at best remiss in awarding the games to Beijing. It has been made clear that China really was not ready in many respects to host this type of high profile event. The cost of doing so was very high. Not just in yuan, but in the heavy cost to the people in ways too numerable to count.
One or more commenters noted that they had not watched any of the Olympics. If one has no interest in such events, then a decision not to be a spectator is of no consequence. I would say that if the reason for such a decision was mainly political, that is a disservice to the American team and other athletes as well – even China's, many of whom proved to be the best at what they do.
At the very least, the Olympics always provide splendid theatre. In that regard, Beijing did not disappoint. Elements of both the opening and closing ceremonies at times defied belief. Literally thousands of performers worked for months, perhaps years to execute dazzlingly precision choreography – much of it seemingly death defying.
With a few notable exceptions the sporting events were carried out without significant problems. The venues, especially the "Bird's Nest" and the "Water Cube", are incredible feats of design and engineering and a wonder to behold. To a man and woman, the Chinese people rightly have a great deal to be proud of.
Here in the U.S., we also should be extremely proud of our athletes, starting of course with Michael Phelps and his absolutely mind boggling performance, continuing to the gold medal winning women's gymnasts, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson who pretty much captured the hearts of anyone who watched them, and on to dozens of other outstanding performances by dozens of athletes performing in a variety of disciplines.
And then, there was Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, who simply annihilated the record books as if it was a day at the beach.
I always find it sad when, near the end of the closing ceremonies, the olympic flame is extinguished. It marks the end of one of the few significant public events in which most of the world takes part. The olympics – both summer and winter – serve as an earmark for time gone by. I am now four years older since the Athens Olympics; going on 2 years since the winter games at Torino.
I know that it's a total fallacy to believe that politics are NOT involved in the olympics. But, the ideal is just that. For the most part, the athletes live up to that ideal giving little if any consideration to anything outside their own performances, as it should be.
That given, and for that reason, I do in fact look forward to the winter games in Vancouver and the next edition of summer olympic theatre in London.