August 23, 2004

I have a feeling that tomorrow will be SotD "catch-up" day. At least, I will try to make it so.

I have seen bits and pieces of the Olympic competitions, but in watching I find that I don't tend to hope that specific competitors win, regardless of the country they represent. Generally, so long as the striving has been real, the judging fair, and drugs more or less absent (although that is another issue by itself), I don't care who wins. Besides, I think I have now heard enough seriously mangled anthems from various countries to last ... a while. I could wish the band involved had been given access to different versions of the music, and maybe to someone who knew how the pieces were supposed to sound.

Rather, I find myself watching the ones who really tried but fell just short; the fourth-place finishers; the ones who were facing their last chance to medal before this part of their athletic career ended and gave it everything they had; the ones at the back of the pack and soon out of the camera's tight field of view; the unknown ones who, like the much better known Radcliffe, collapsed in the 45+ Celsius degree tarmac heat of yesterday's marathon - and that equally with the clean and utter precision of (for example) some of the Chinese divers. I find myself wishing and hoping with every platform dive that no serious injury or death ever happens again. I could wish synchronised swimming would abandon its insistence on false make-up and false smiles, because I feel that it camouflages the real physical effort of that sport. I cheered the Jamaican bobsledding team in other games, the Iraqi soccer team now, and every team which has managed to beat the Dream Team.

(Nothing per se against the Dream Team - "amateur" status had been something of a loopholed-out-of-any-real-meaning ideal for quite some time, although the current approach is creating a vicious two-tier system of "professional" vs. amateur sports - but working and succeeding against those odds carries a measure of courage and heart that gaining the expected win can never do.)

I appreciate flawless performance: and I have seen a few in the course of these Games that come as close to "flawless" as makes no difference.

I appreciate spirit equally.

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