London 2012 and all the razzmatazz

Maswood Alam Khan
Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar said: ‘Life would be flat without dreams’. Big Ben, the famed bell belonging to Britain’s parliament along with thousands of bells across the United Kingdom will chime non-stop for three minutes today as part of a national event to mark the start of the London Olympics, an event where at least 10,500 athletes from 205 countries will take part. A few of them will find their dream come true. And many will go home to renew their zeal for a second attempt with a view to realizing their dream in the next Olympic. Those who would have to give up their hope would at least remember what Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, said back in 1896: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

The London 2012 Summer Olympics will be officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on Friday, 27 July. The closing ceremony of the games will be held on 12 August. The closing ceremony will include a handover by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, to Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, the host city of 2016 Summer Olympics.

It is hard to estimate how many people will actually be watching the Olympic opening ceremony. But it is guessed that about 80,000 spectators will be watching from inside the stadium and the global TV audience will be anywhere from one billion to four billion based on the figure of audience in Olympics in Beijing, Athens, and Sydney that hit between three and four billion.

The hype and buzz around the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony has been building with fervor. But the United Kingdom, some observers are afraid, may not have the means and funds to compete with the epic 2008 opening ceremony in Beijing. The organizers are keeping the details of the ceremony under wraps. They wish to give the spectators some elements of surprise! Some journalists however managed to get some inkling of the picture of the opening ceremony.

Spectators of the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony are likely to see an anarchic representation of the contrary nature of the Britons. The Olympic Stadium may be transformed into a British countryside scene featuring: fields and meadows; 70 real life sheep; 12 horses; 3 cows; 10 ducks; 10 chickens; 2 goats; a river replicating the River Thames; families playing cricket on a village green and children dancing around 4 maypoles that will be topped by four giant national flowers for Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Olympic Games is a festivity where the true spirit of sportsmanship is played out. It’s an event that spreads the message of unity and peace. At the Olympics, sports persons face the ultimate test of performance. What make Olympic winners achieve their goals are their lifetime training and determination and their indomitable passion that fuels them to scale newer heights.

Olympics, some Britons complain, are now too big, too expensive, and too complex and involve far too much razzmatazz. One Briton commented: “They have been hijacked by narcissistic politicians and governments as a propaganda weapon. It demonstrates how extravagantly they can waste billions of taxpayers’ money on a two-week jamboree.” To some critics, the modern Olympics are giving more importance to the opening and closing ceremonies than to the events.

On every occasion of this grand event that takes place every four years the spectators while brushing up on the history of Olympics pay their glowing tributes to the Founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat who had painstakingly promoted athletics and organized the 1896 Olympics in Athens at a time when the then society was essentially indifferent to sports, or, actually considered sports to be a frivolous diversion.

Sports fans and general viewers will also be remembering the famous sayings by illustrious people on different Olympic occasions such as what Jesse Owens, the African-American athlete in 1936 Summer Olympics said: “Olympics—A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Likewise, Mia Hamm, the American football player in 2004 Summer Olympics said: “I am building a fire, and everyday I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”

There are some emotional moments in the past Olympic events the sports aficionados would love to ruminate over. One such moment was when Muhammad Ali, his impressive body shaking with the tremors of Parkinson’s disease, had lifted the torch to light the flame at Atlanta in 1996 with around 3.5 billion people all over the world raptly watching. For many it was the greatest moment in the sporting history. Ali represented greatness as an athlete and also as a human being. That great moment showed the power of the Olympic Games, its ideals and its symbols.

Marathon, a 26-mile running event, at the Olympic Games is another poignant reminder of the passing time. When the world would be watching women’s Marathon on the 5th of August and men’s on the 12th the picture and the story of the Greek soldier Pheidippides would appear in people’s mind. The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, who was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. It is said that Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming “nikomen” (We have won), before collapsing and dying.
Who can afford to forget the sight of the skinny Ethiopian guy named Abebe Bikila running barefoot along the ancient Appian Way during the warm evening in 1960 Rome Olympics? The race began in the evening in order to avoid the stifling summer heat. With his 26-second win over Moroccan marathoner Rhadi Ben Adbesselem, Bikila had become the first black African to win a gold medal in Olympic history. Asked later why he ran barefoot, Bikila replied, “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”


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