Time to get to serious work!
I have spent the last two weeks thoroughly distracted by the Games — almost as badly as when they were here in Vancouver! While I realize that there are economic and social problems with the Olympics, I find myself inspired by the accomplishments and even the disappointments our athletes face. (And I say “our” to reflect my fierce Canadian pride that especially swells at times like this.) From Rosie MacLennan’s first (and Canada’s only!) gold medal performance, our women’s soccer team pulling themselves up from last place in the world last year to win bronze, *so* many top 10 but out-of-medal performances, the heartbreaking DQ in the men’s 4×100 relay after a shocking rise from off-radar to bronze position… and many many other inspiring moments. Our athletes showed their pride of achievement, and sadness while striving for dignity in defeat. Watching people strive for amazing and challenging achievements inspires me. Such performances highlight the risk involved in devoting your life to a goal, especially a competitive goal defined by social comparisons. It’s possible you’ll never achieve it — and it might be because of simple bad luck, or the fact that someone else just outperforms you (imagine competing in a cohort that just happens to include Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt!). It must take tremendous strength of character to say, “I did my very best, and I’m proud of my accomplishment” after off-podium, far off-podium, or defeat finishes in a domain in which you stake your identity.
Of course, it wasn’t just the Canadian’s who inspired me. There were some incredible “firsts” of these Games that will have an important legacy: Oscar Pistorius, who blurred the boundaries between Olympics and Paralympics; every country competing sent at least one woman; every sport was open to women and men — even boxing; and best all-round female gymnast went to a woman of colour, Gabby Douglas, for the first time ever. Some of these firsts seem bizarrely delayed, it being 2012 and all, but I suspect that feeling is more a product of my sheltered Canadian vantage point than reality.
Thanks, London 2012, our Canadian Olympic Team, and all Olympians, for giving me an excuse to pause and reflect on achievement, failure, competition, national pride, women’s rights, the meaning of physical ability and disability.
Now really, it’s time for me to get back to work!