Saturday, August 14, 2004

Olympics 2004 - Athens

The 28th Olympic games opened today with great splendor. I missed a lot of the dances & other presentations but I did get to watch the march of the thousands of participants from the 202 countries - I was pretty embarrassed to find out the number of countries I had never heard of! I love the Olympics because it is truly a global event where politics, religion, culture, race & language are set aside for the true human spirit. Also, it was a momentous occasion for the Olympics to arrive back in Athens - where it all began almost 3000 years ago!

I was watching it on MSNBC, and I commend the commentators for their brave (though at times biased) political comments, here is what I learned & observed:

  • I was surprised by the techno music that was being played while the parade took place. I quite enjoy techno - it has an energetic yet soothing effect.
  • It was heartening to see participants from war-torn Afghanistan & Iraq. It was the first time Afghanistan was participating because they were banned due to Taliban's oppressive rule over women - 2 women for the first time were part of this year's team. Iraqi players for the first time in a long time don't have to fear torture by Udeh Hussein (Saddam's son) if they don't perform well or win. I wonder if Iraq was ever banned in the Olympics games for human rights abuses.
  • From the snippets I caught, it looks like an Iranian boxer (or some other sport) has refused to play in the opening game against his Israeli opponent because Iran does not recognize Israel's right to exist. I'm sorry - although I understand the sentiment, it's time Muslims & Arabs accept that although Israel's establishment is unjust, it is here to stay. The only way to progress is through friendship & dialogue - let's keep politics & animosity out of the games shall we?! I guess some could see it as a form of protest to Israel's policy, just like a boycott...
  • I was pleased to hear the Olympics recognizing "Palestine" as opposed to merely "Palestinians" or "Palestinian Authority." There are 2 Palestinian participants this time - Sanaa Abu Bkheit, an 18-year-old 800-meter runner and Raad Aweisat, 17, swims the butterfly. Neither of them expects to win, but they & other victims of war & violence have to be admired for their hardwork despite their limited resources! In 1972, radical Palestinians had killed 11 Israeli athletes - I truly pray that a terrorist attack does not take place during these games. The other inspiring aspect of tonight's event was seeing North & South Koreans walking together as Korea!
  • I may be reading too much into this, but what I noticed when the American participants walked in, they didn't wave any flags - maybe they thought it may not be such a good idea considering what the rest of the world thinks of the US government?
  • Pakistan for the first time has a women swimmer because she will be wearing a special swim suit that will not expose skin like traditional swim suits, thus respecting Islamic traditions. I was impressed to see several women from Egypt, Iran & other Muslim countries, participating while observing Hijab (headcover & modest dress).
  • The commentator remarked that South Africans don't feel that this year's team represents their country because most of them are white.
  • Interesting facts: 1000 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea; Paraguay is the only UN member, whose flag is different on the back & front; speaking of flags, New Zealand is thinking of changing its flag because many feel it looks too much like the UK's or Australia's & does not represent modern New Zealand. As a young teenager, I loved the NZ cricket team - go Kiwis!

From The Daily Times: the athletes’ village is comprised of 366 buildings with 2,292 apartments made up of 8,814 rooms and 17,428 beds. After the games, the complex will be converted to housing for 2,500 families.

I'll never forget the awe I felt when I watched my first Olympics opening ceremony in 1996 held in Atlanta. It was the first time I go to hear Martin Luther King Jr's, "I Have a Dream," and some beautiful music from various white & black American artists. My best moment was when the doves were realeased - here's to a more peaceful tomorrow. Peace should not just be a dream because it is a possible political reality...