Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Attitude Quandry Ruth Smith Meyer

Olympic Attitude Quandary

The Olympics of the past two weeks remind me of the proverbial elephant . That beast nosed into our living rooms and our lives with the Olympic Torch’s journey across our fair land. With the opening ceremony, the elephant took over the room and many hours of our lives.

We began to stay up late in the evenings to cheer on our athletes, rejoicing when Canada made the podium. Our routine started to centre around the live broadcasts of Olympic events. Especially at first, with typical Canadian grace, we cheered for those who made gold, silver or bronze no matter what nationality, and congratulated all those who gave it their best. We were awed by the tremendous dedication of those young people. We applauded with extra exuberance if Canada did well and our pride in our country grew. Having some people from our own community added to the sense of involvement, so when Drew Doughty was on with the Canadian Hockey team or Scott and Tessa were skating I was all gung- ho, cheering and straining for the prize for them.

Gradually I felt a sense of disquiet. I wondered what was happening to me. As the weeks wore on, more and more, I found myself wanting gold for our country—or silver at least. By this last Saturday the elephant was taking up most of the space in our lives and I began to feel discomfort even while I cheered on with each new gold or silver for Canada. A real tug-of-war raged within me that I still can’t completely understand.

Part of me glories in the accomplishment of Canadian athletes. I am truly proud of the quality and the effort expended, but there is also a part of me that decries putting so much importance on a few winners. Haven’t all the athletes given their best? Were not many “losers” very close to the time of the “winners”? When I saw the disappointment on some faces even though they had done a good job and won silver losing out on the gold by mere hundredth or thousandth of a seconds, I felt distressed that those athletes couldn’t feel good about their accomplishment. When I saw gold winners come to congratulate their competitor just to have the silver medalists turn their backs and walk the other direction I grieved the lack of sportsmanship and questioned the effectiveness of what the Olympics were meant to accomplish.

Then there is another side of the conflict within me. Although I believe in exercising our bodies and perhaps pushing them to greater limits than we thought possible, I feel some hesitation when I see the skiers on a dangerous course that probably should have been shut down, careening down the hill and ending up being taken away on stretchers. Others coming down the mogul hill in spite of knee damage not fully healed or skating with injuries, continuing in spite of broken ribs and more made me wonder how those people are going to feel, in thirty, forty or fifty years, about how they used their God-given bodies.

So I am in a quandary. The Olympics have come to an celebratory end and the elephant will retreat from the living room, but will its spirit and the moral predicament linger in my mind?

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Ruth, you've given a very appropriate application of the 'elephant in the room' metaphor! Your expression spoke for me, too, as I found my inner response towards the games undergoing various changes and stages. I was reminded of Paul's sports allusion in 1 Cor. 9:24 - "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." I take this as an encouragement to us all to do our best, and that as we do, each of us may obtain the prize (as per "the high calling of God in Christ" Phil. 3:14). Thank you.

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