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Triumphs and defeats in Beijing Olympics

Beijing, Aug 23: The most successful Olympic Games in history comes to a close Sunday night, leaving behind a legacy of accomplishments that would be difficult to duplicate four years from now when London hosts the next Olympics. Beijing Olympics will long be remembered for its amazing opening ceremony, the 8-gold medal haul of Michael Phelps, the rise of China as a powerhouse in sports and the unique structures called the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.

The Olympics in Beijing also gave opportunities for such countries as India and Mongolia to win their first gold medals and made the United States and Russia realize they are no longer as formidable as they were in the past. And while the Olympiad celebrated outstanding levels of performances from the world"s best competitors, there were at least two moments when our hearts were touched by the humaneness of the strongest of athletes.

In the build up of the Games, one of the faces of the Olympics was Liu Xiang, the other Yao Ming. Having won gold in the 110-meter hurdles in Athens, Liu had the entire people of China expecting a repeat, what with his string of wins in competitions leading towards the Games.

In the first-round heat of the hurdles" event, Liu attracted a full house at the Beijing National Stadium. But the fans, instead of seeing him dash to victory, were stunned when Liu walked off the track in pain, frustration painted all over his face. The cause: a recurrence of chronic inflammation in his right Achilles" tendon.

The stadium fell silent and not only did some of those in the audience cry, so did some of the Chinese media persons covering the event. China"s brightest hope was human after all.

US athletes dominated the track and field contest in nearly every Olympics, thus the rise of reggae nation, Jamaica, in the event not only came as a surprise but also captured the imagination of the world.

Usain Bolt, a towering sprinter, had outrun a number of world class athletes in competitions in the past few months. He was supposed to only run in his specialty, the 200 meters, but in the last minute was signed up by his coach in the 100 meters contest.

He broke the Olympic record, dashing to the finish line beating his breast and later prancing and dancing draped in the Jamaican flag. He repeated the performance when he broke the 200-meter world record, earning a second gold medal.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge took a different view on Bolt"s conduct saying it showed lack of respect for other competitors. But who cares about what Rogge says? Bolt was a winner, a big winner and in those precious moments, the world was his stage.

Bolt was quoted as saying: “I just blew my mind and blew the world"s mind." His childlike joy was so contagious that other Jamaicans took more medals in the sprinting contest doing a 1-2-3 finish in the women"s 100-meters event. Another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, took the gold in the women"s 200 meters.

While the Olympics places those who excel in their sports in a pedestal, there must be many inspiring stories to tell among those who could have won but failed and those who found honor in sharing the field of competition with the world"s finest.

The Philippines has yet to win a medal and the probability of it is almost nil. There is no need to be ashamed of failure for as long as one gives his/her utmost best. Liu Xiang apologized for his withdrawal from the contest saying he could “do nothing but pull out of the race," but he still believes that the injury would not prevent him from future competitions with a vow to make a comeback in the London Olympics.

That is what makes the Olympics one of the greatest shows on earth - it reveals not only the deepest of emotions that come in times of victory as well as the grace and honor to accept defeat.

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Story first published: Saturday, August 23, 2008, 18:07 [IST]
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