My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Olympics and us

Now that the Olympics and the extremely nationalistic media coverage of it is over, it is time to take stock of how it has changed our lives. For one, it got us all excited about taking up one sport or the other. Of course, many such television-inspired budding sportsmen lost interest after having first bought the necessary gear and clothing. As for me, I was thrilled to see a poster advertising gymnastics lessons in the community center near my house. It had two kinds of lessons, one for those between three to five years old, another for those aged five and above. So much was the effect of the Olympics; I even considered joining the classes for those aged five and above.

After this disappointment with gymnastics, (yeah, being told that I am too old for something is always hard to take), I decided to pursue some other sports. And while I understood the logic behind most of the games, I could never grasp why a game like triple jump originated in the first place. I mean why not just stop at one jump (the long jump event), or if they really wanted to test, why not have a ten jump contest? So I decided to continue with long distance running, after all its something people can continue competing at the highest level even in their late thirties.

More than the young, the Olympics probably affect those viewers in their golden years. My parents were extremely happy to see many athletes saying prayers before or after their attempt and used that as a logic why I too should start believing. Of course, it then took some effort to convince them why sportsmen should not be considered at the cutting edge when it came to understanding the meaning of life. The older folks would be the most admiring fans of opening and closing ceremonies. And I never understood why their favorite sports would be synchronized swimming and equestrian sports.

Yes, something must be said about the equestrian sports, the only sports involving animals. Do these horses feel the same rush of blood at the prospect of a gold medal or are they just urged to excel at the prospect of great food if they do well. But then I thought all the competitors were eating at McDonalds as their commercial suggested. Weren’t the medal winning horses disappointed to being fed on a diet of nuggets and fries after their triumph?

As for the less active and less inspired by the games, the Olympics was more of an opportunity to know which flag belonged to which country and knowing that countries named Belarus and Moldova existed. Unfortunately, during the award ceremonies, the custom is to play only karaoke version of the national anthems. Otherwise it would have been a good opportunity for many to remember the lyrics of their national anthems. And after India did exceptionally well this year, a favorite conversation topic among Indian software engineers was how monopoly of cricket over Indian minds had led to such sad state for other sports. Of course, immediately after this discussion, the staff would go back to their computer and open the latest cricket scores on the internet.

Many agree that sports are a proxy for wars between countries and the fervor they arouse. Then one wonders why such games aren’t held between teams representing different religious sects to provide a safer vent to the tension and hatred? May be one can test with a smaller version of the game in Lebanon. Surely a game of soccer between the Maronite Christian team and the Druze team will be a better way to fight than blowing up each other.

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