Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010: The Eve of Closing Ceremonies

Vancouver's Olympic Flame

It always makes me sad to see the Olympic flame extinguished and that's what will happen this evening during the closing ceremonies. I know, it's the signal for the party to begin, kind of like taking the tree down after Christmas in anticipation of New Year's. But, like Christmas, the Games never last long enough for me to grow weary of them. This year has been especially meaningful because, for the first time, I've written about my impressions and posted them here.

While that's not daring, it is risky. Sharing what you think, especially in a public forum, means you've got something to say and aren't content to keep it to yourself. It involves considering how you want your ideas received and whether or not you want them appreciated. Sometimes I say things in the first draft that come across to me as ungenerous or harsh, and that's where editing comes in. Even if I have strong opinions, I don't want them to alienate before they've even left the chute, so to speak.

Some writers rant, hoping someone else will identify with their rising column of steam. Most of the time I'd rather get people thinking in new ways or looking at themselves and the world differently. If you'll permit me an occupational hazard, it's kind of like preaching. A good sermon shouldn't make you walk out of church feeling worse than when you came in -- unless, of course, there's a good reason for it. The preacher talks about honesty in business dealings and you're cheating your customers. In that case, you ought to feel worse.

Generally, however, the point is not to moralize but to stimulate. Get the wheels turning, make you ponder alternatives, clarify what you believe. How does all this apply to the Olympics? Well, someone may not agree with my assessment of the athletes. What I find inspirational, they consider commonplace. Then again, one might take a look at Kim Yu-Na and see her struggle as a mirror of their own. In that case, how she copes might help them cope more effectively.

I suppose I could be accused of idealizing the people I write about. And the truth is, like humorist Will Rogers, all I know of Apolo Ohno's personal life, for instance, is what I read in the papers (or on the web), and I don't pay a lot of attention to that, anyway. Because he's human, I know he has to deal with some of the same issues that frustrate me. He's far from perfect but he doesn't have to be in order to skate well and exhibit true sportsmanship. The fact that he demonstrates integrity in his work tells me that, despite any flaws he may possess, he's basically a decent guy, and that's what appeals to me. Would I like to have a beer with him? As a matter of fact, yes, a beer or cup of coffee would suit me just fine.

So, on the eve of the closing ceremonies, when USA takes on Canada in hockey -- and with all due respect to my Canadian-born medical school pals, I'm hoping for another miracle on ice -- I feel enriched by the past two weeks. It's been great, seeing "old friends" again, and making new acquaintances. I've bookmarked their websites and I'll check in with them, periodically, to see how they're doing. It's going to be fun. Who knows? Maybe I'll write and maybe they'll show up here, checking in on me, too. That would be a nice turn of "events."

(Creative Commons image of Vancouver Olympic Flame by photojesse via Flickr)

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