Twenty years ago, excited by the Summer Olympic Games being in Los Angeles (and by playing “Summer Games”:http://screenmania.retrogames.com/c64/01/c64_0008.html on the Apple //c), some friends and I recreated the Olympics in our own neighborhood. Each of us picked a country to represent, and we competed in a series of (probably very lame) “events” to determine who would get the (probably plastic) “gold medal”. Like the actual Olympics, we spent much more time and effort on the rules and ceremonies than on the actual sports, but that wasn’t the point.
Which country did I choose? “Greece”:http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/gr.html. In truth, I didn’t know much about Greece. I was impressed by the idea of a millenia-old Olympic tradition, and I was probably more than a little influenced by a “miniseries on the 1896 Olympics”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086713/ that was on around the same time. Besides, they had a “cool flag”:http://www.nafpaktos.com/colors_of_the_flag.htm which worked well in blue marker on graph paper. I participated in all the “events” with that flag pinned to my shirt (you could still see the graph lines, seriously), and it made me feel like I was a part of something grand and pure.
A few years later, a classmate of mine wore an “Athens 1996″ t-shirt, and it was an idea that resonated. I felt that returning the Games to their birthplace would fit both the games and the place, especially since tradition is so much of what makes the games A Big Deal and not just another track and field event. Athens didn’t get picked for the ’96 games, in part because of the major infrastructure issues they’re still trying to resolve for the ’04 games, but eventually tradition and that cool flag won out.
It’s funny, I was originally going to write a rant about how the Olympics has become more known for scandals, “draconian rules”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/08/13/big_brother_goes_to_.html, and “corporate sponsorship”:http://www.boingboing.net/2004/08/12/olympic_brandwhoring.html than cooperation and sportsmanship. After watching the 2004 opening ceremonies (gotta love “Bjˆrk’s dress”:http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object.cgi?object=/chronicle/pictures/2004/08/14/mn_olympicsopenin34.jpg&paper=news&file=sports1844EDT0392.DTL&directory=/news/archive/2004/08/13&type=sports), however, I couldn’t help but see the real draw of the Olympics: “togetherness”:http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=182458&rel_no=1, “courage”:http://www.nyjournalnews.com/newsroom/081304/a0113ian1a.html, and that ol’ International Spirit.