August 22, 2008

There are countries with traditional rivalries, and one of the ones that will not be soon forgotten is that between the United States and Russia.

This Olympics, it took shape on the volleyball court.

They fought it out to the very last set, very last point. The Americans took the first two sets, barely. The Russians took the next two sets, barely. The final tiebreaker set seesawed back and forth, never more than a single point apart until the very last serve, when the United States team finally edged out the Russian team 15-13. The American team will now play for the gold medal, the Russian team for the bronze.

The full match took over two hours to complete, more than half an hour longer than any of the other matches. Neither the teams nor the cheering fans seemed to notice any fatigue. Whenever the cheering turned nationalistic (U-S-A!), those who supported the other side began to whistle, loudly enough that the chant could not be sustained. Cheering continued and grew throughout, without the chants.

At the end, celebration for one, bitter disappointment for the other: but what was welcomed in its absence were the tensions of the previous political overtones. May it remain so.

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