I was one of the billions who watched the amazing opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in Beijing and once the torch was lit, my thoughts on the Olympics over the years came rushing back to me. The controversy over censorship and then the fact that Russia used military action on Georgia goes to show that, although it’s a game, sports culture is ironically more mature than the culture of politics. When the athletes get together, political and cultural barriers come down and competition somehow leads to harmony. While they had the parade of nations, I learned about new countries that I had never heard of, (and I thought I was pretty good at geography).
But then it dawned on me that countries with less than even a million people get to participate and represent such a small political entity. Accordingly, each of the 28 states in India, (average population of 40 million), should get its own team. But then, India just earned its first gold medal ever. It was Abhinav Bindra who won in the men’s 10m air rifle competition. I’m not used to seeing the Indian flag on the podium or hearing the Indian national anthem. Perhaps some of the mega-billionaires in India like Mittal or Tata should start an Indian Olympic fund to better develop sports programs there. There are probably many potential talents out of all those people. It’s also been great to see fellow Indian-American Raj Bhavsar winning a bronze with the US men’s gymnastics team.
As an Indian-American, if I were to try to get into the Olympics, I might represent India because it would be easier for me to get into the games, and they need medals more than the USA does. I would have to partake in a sport like curling or mountain biking, sports that most Indians there probably don’t even know about. I wish bowling was an Olympic sport because I know a few buddies of mine with whom I could start the Indian national team.
I also find the sports selection in the Olympics to be funny. Some sports seem so obscure that I wonder how they were ever added to the list or how people decide to pursue them for serious competition. K1 kayaking looks like fun, but how do you get scouted for that? Synchronized diving is never part of a child’s sports dream, is it? Or are these just athletes that want to find an easy way to win a medal like I do? Speaking of the number of medals, if a team wins a medal, I believe, (but can’t confirm), that everybody on that team gets an actual medal to wear. So, if a guy subbed in for a soccer game for 5 minutes out of 8 matches, he wins a medal. Add a new team sport and the International Olympic Committee has to provide more medals. Add a weight class in boxing… new medals. But to balance out the medal supply issue, sports like baseball and softball are getting dropped in the next Olympics.
I do enjoy watching the Olympics though. They happen infrequently enough to make them special. You inevitably see some amazing sports moments like Michael Phelps winning gold medals as if they’re no big deal. You learn about new countries and culture, all while watching sports you wouldn’t otherwise get to see and rooting for your country (or countries), and the occasional underdog.