the human spirit

Tonight I sat at home, as did many Americans I’m sure, and watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. 

I watched as 2,008 drummers pounded China’s hope for their future into the hearts and minds of everyone watching at home.  A nation so controlled by its government for once set free to put on a show like no other Olympics has seen before.  The $300 million production was filled with 15,000 performers, 11,000 athletes, nearly 80 national leaders, and 90,000 other spectators – not to mention the billion or so viewing from home.  Fireworks, enormous LED screens, costumes and acrobatics filled the program.

But all the show-stopping stunts and special effects aside, I love the Olympics.  I love the sport, the competition, the awe-inspiring feats the athletes accomplish.  Some will break records, some will fall to injury, but all will be looked at as the world’s greatest – the best at their sport.  How incredible.

But I also love the idealistic side of what the Games represent.  That no matter our background, our race, our culture, religion, or political beliefs, we are all very much the same.  And what lies at the center of all the medals, the grandeur, the pomp and circumstance is indeed the heart of the human spirit. 

I always look forward to the Games – both winter and summer.  My favorite moment is always right at the end of the opening ceremony where the athletes are all finally on the field together.  The 200 or so countries are represented by a blended sea of colors.  The scenes of athletes shaking hands with those from other countries seem to allow us here at home a moment of quiet reflection and hope of a better world, a more peaceful world.  The civility, the sportsmanship, the comraderie of being an athlete overpowers every other difference between all of us for that brief, shining moment.

I admire these athletes.  Many experience hardships and struggles during the competition.  But their are those that face difficult circumstances in their own personal lives or have had to overcome severe national conditions in their own countries.  I am always amazed and astounded by their tenacity and fortitude.  The heart, determination, and dedication it takes to compete at a sport they love is absolutely incredible and often times seemingly impossible.  As corny and cliche’ as this might sound, they are all very much winners in my eyes. 

So I look forward to the next 17 days.  Seventeen days filled with the inspiration these athletes will bring and the feeling that for this short time the world will watch in unity as the essence of the human spirit is displayed on the greatest stage.

Let the games begin! 

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”  ~Confucius

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