Sunday, February 14, 2010

Opening Ceremonies Memorable Moment #1

48 hours have passed, and the 21st Winter Olympic Games have really begun.

The games proclaimed open, races done, medals won, and the unthinkable has actually happened -- an Olympian has died -- and a sliding track now judged the fastest on the planet has higher and protected sides. Too late for the young Olympian from Georgia, Asia, whose throttling G-force speeds threw him out of control and against the sides.

And so for me, the most painful moment of the Opening Ceremonies was seeing the Georgian team in the Parade of Nations begin their slow walk up the ramp to enter the BC Place stadium -- against a backdrop of snow and back-lit lighting -- it truly seemed an epic struggle for them to push themselves forwards to reach the entrance... a painful funeral procession. And then, on entering the stadium, the crowd spontaneously rising to their feet and drumming steadily, mournfully, and in respect, in ovation salute, grieving not only his loss and their loss, but our loss as well... the loss of innocence and the loss of illusion... the Olympics are not just some trivial fun set of games.

The thrill of extreme sport, the extreme challenge of world class competition, the ability to rise above and control the fear, the willingness to take risks which far exceed a few bruises or broken bones -- all of these combined make the Olympics a very deadly game.

The head of the Georgian team's trembling comment: "This is what I know. No sport is supposed to kill anyone. You're not supposed to do sports and die."

But athletes in extreme sports willingly take that risk, and knowingly tempt fate every time they pit themselves against a mountain, hurl themselves down a track, or throw themselves into the air off a stories-high jump.

But with the illusions of youth, they never expect it to end with black armbands and somber teammates walking a slow and painful procession around an Olympic stadium, wiping tears from their eyes.

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