Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Olympics

Japan Image Series
Watching the Olympics this week has been a slow walk down memory lane for this TCK.  The earliest memory I have of anything Olympic was moving to Tokyo in 1965.  The Olympics had been held there in 1964, and we drove past the Olympic Stadium every day.  It was a sweeping, wavelike, concrete monolith, a little reminiscent of the swimming venue in London today.  The Japanese later turned it into an ice skating rink.  One time when we were there skating, I fell down and someone ran over my hand.  I was carted off to the first aid station, where they doctored the gash and wrapped it in what I thought was sticky brown paper. 

The movie, “Walk, Don’t Run” was filmed in Tokyo.  It was a typical campy 1960’s comedy set during the Olympics there.  A stuffy English Lord (Cary Grant) talks his way into sharing an apartment with a lovely young British embassy employee (Samantha Eggar), as there is a serious housing shortage due to the games.  Grant in turn, sub-lets half of his room to an American athlete, played by Jim Hutton (yes, Timothy Hutton’s father).  Hilarity ensues when Cary Grant tries to fix up Hutton and Eggar.  Hutton is evasive when asked which event he competes in, until the climax of the film has Grant stripping down to his boxers and undershorts, pretending to be in the race walking competition to catch up with Hutton. 

Race walking looks pretty hilarious, compared to some of the more mainstream events.  Watching a video of it, with the droll British color commentary, it almost feels like you’ve stumbled into Monty Python’s “Silly Olympics”.  Laugh if you must, but this is a serious competition.  You try walking that way for 50 kilometers! (China’s Chen Ding won the gold this year, in case you were wondering).

We had just moved back to the states when the 1972 Olympics were held in Munich.  Having been to Munich while we lived in Brussels, I could identify with the places and landmarks I was seeing.  Even as an innocent 12 year old I watched in horror as the Israeli athletes and coaches were being held in a dormitory by Palestinian terrorists, and later slaughtered in cold blood.  I still think it was a travesty that those athletes weren’t remembered this year in London.  If they could have taken a moment to remember the victims of the bus bombings five years ago, I don’t see why they couldn’t have remembered the Munich tragedy.  I will make up for that oversight by posting pictures of the men who were killed, and whose memory is still alive with their families and may they rest in peace. 

Moshe Weinberg
Yossef Romano
Ze’ev Friedman
David Berger
Yakov Springer
Eliezer Halfin
Yossef Gutfreund
Kehat Shorr
Mark Slavin
Andre Spitzer
Amitzur Shapira

We were on home leave in the states in 1976 when the Olympics were held in Montreal.  I vaguely remember catching some of the events on TV, but I was more interested in shopping at the American stores and stocking up on my wardrobe for the coming year.  Of course, we all remember the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, or rather the Olympics That We Skipped.  In 1982, I traveled to the Soviet Union with my Russian professor at Trinity University.  We stood on a bluff at Moscow University, overlooking the stadium where the games had been held.  I don’t remember being caught up in the politics of the moment, but I did think that I was seeing something historically significant. 

Being a Third Culture Kid AND the mom of two daughters who were adopted internationally, I find myself rooting for athletes from all over the world.  I have a special soft spot for Kazakhstan (4 Gold Medals as of this moment!) and the Philippines.  I was excited see a Belgian athlete.  For some reason I feel more of a thrill when the underdog wins against the powerhouses like the USA, China and Russia.  I always root for the poor swimmer whose preliminary times earned him a slot in the outside lane for the final.  I don’t know if anyone ever won in Lane 8!  I feel terrible for the poor guy who is lapped by the pack in the 10,000 meter run.  I am thrilled that a Guatemalan athlete won the marathon.  Some day the Jamaicans are going to win the bobsled race, and I’m going to be their biggest cheerleader!  We may feel bad for the poor bronze medal winner, but for me, just to BE there competing would be an honor.  Even if I were the last one limping over the finish line, it would be a proud moment.

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