Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Olympic Spirit

Like most Americans, I guess, I have been watching the Summer Olympics these last two weeks, rooting for the USA and all that.

And, as we near the conclusion of the 2012 Games, we have had some memorable moments but not necessarily iconic ones.

Well, I'll make a couple of exceptions on that one.

Although I already knew the outcome, last night I watched the women's beach volleyball gold–medal game — and applauded Kerri Walsh and Misty May on winning their third consecutive gold in the event.

After all, everyone knew it would be their final match together. It was a special moment.

I would say that watching them in that match, knowing it was the last one, was comparable to watching Michael Jordan play his final game of basketball or Babe Ruth play in his final game of baseball.

Except that, with only two athletes per team, it probably had more in common with tennis. So watching them play was probably like watching the final championship match between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

They are legends of their sport — even if their sport, like so many Olympic sports, grabs our attention for a few days every four years.

Between now and 2016, if I watch beach volleyball at all, it probably will be accidental, a case of stumbling onto a broadcast while looking for something else to watch.

And I may stop and watch it for a few minutes — until I remember that there are other channels to check and, after making a mental note to return to the broadcast if I don't find something else to watch (which I probably will not do, settling instead for something that is vastly inferior), I will move on.

The Olympics make us temporary fans of sports we seldom watch at any other time.

I've seen nothing on the field to compare with the final seconds of the U.S.–U.S.S.R. hockey game of 1980 or the American gold rush at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Or Kerri Strug's one–foot landing to secure the all–around gold medal for the U.S. gymnastics team in 1996.

Fortunately, though, we've had nothing similar to the killings of the Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Games in Munich — an event that has been rarely mentioned, at least in the TV coverage I have seen.

Maybe I have missed it, but I was sure that someone would say something about it since 2012 is the 40th anniversary of that indisputably dark chapter in Olympic history.

But it has been all but ignored at these Games.

Well, others may have overlooked the anniversary — either intentionally or unintentionally — but Aly Raisman did not.

Raisman, an 18–year–old American gymnast and "official Jewish heroine of the 2012 Olympic Games," in the words of Haaretz Israeli News' Allison Kaplan Sommer, saluted the "Munich 11" on the occasion of what must be considered her greatest personal triumph to date — her gold medal–winning performance in the floor exercise.

Leonard Greene of the New York Post put it this way:

"The martyrs were remembered this week during a London ceremony filled with sadness and reflection," Greene wrote. "But not a peep about them has been said publicly in the one place where it counts — at the Summer Games on Olympic soil."

Until Raisman.

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