A Very Belated Olympic Post

Another of my thought fragments…

I’m not sure how many of you read my blog, but for those of you that do, perhaps you’ve been wondering at my long silence.  The long story short is that I’m back in America and have slowly been readjusting to my new life here.  I’ve  started school, started a new job, started waking up earlier than I ever have in my entire life and become one year older.  I like riding the train, the variety of food and cultures and people, the clothes that fit and the fact that smoking is not OK.  But sometimes on small streets with no barriers (like in neighborhoods and parking lots) I find myself driving down the left side of the road.  And I think I’ll be forever messed up over which is the turn signal and which turns on the windshield wipers.  And no amount of odd looks can stop me from saying, “unh” when I agree or “ha?” when I don’t understand, or bowing when someone lets me cross the street in front of them.  But more on all that later.  Now I want to go back to when I first got home – when Japan was still fresh in my heart and mind and when another Asian country was the center of attention on the world stage.

Beijing, China 2008 – One World, One Dream.  I had wondered if my perceptions of China were overly influenced by living in Japan, but it turns out that China isn’t really all that popular anywhere.  Perhaps the perception that stands out most is that life is cheap in China.  That people’s individuality, creativity and humanity are sacrificed to the machines of government and economic growth.  The opening ceremony for the Beijing games both reinforced this image and destroyed it.  On one hand were seemingly inhuman feats of synchronization performed by a mind-boggling number of people.  I imagine that these stunts were meant to reinforce not only Chinese values, but also the theme of the Olympics – many individuals working together to create something unanimous and harmonious.  On the other hand, I was made to understand that the entire opening ceremony was the vision of one man – a man who clearly has a lot of creative talent, who has the ability to think way beyond himself and translate his own values and ideals into something that the entire world can readily relate to.  It gave me hope – that if an individual like this can exist in China and be given the opportunity to create on such a public and grand level, that maybe there are others like him.*  That maybe there are others who have unique voices and that maybe one day those voices will be heard and change our perceptions of China forever.

Bob Costas – who was having WAY too much fun at this Olympics if you ask me 😉  – talked a bit about the Olympic ideal.  I was glad to hear him mention it, because too often the ideal gets lost in politics or scandal or war.  Then, as if on cue (actually, it probably was on cue), they cut to a scene down in the Olympic stadium, where some athletes from another country were asking LeBron James and another NBA star for their autographs.  These are world-class athletes who are undoubtedly incredibly famous in their own country, but there they were asking for autographs.  When they had finished posing for a picture, LeBron asked how to say thank you in the other athlete’s language.  I was touched…there was the ideal that Bob had spoken of, the one that glues me to the TV every Olympics.

*I haven’t checked on this, but I was told that the mastermind behind the opening ceremony was actually in jail for his “heretical” ideas.  They released him to do the opening ceremony because he was the only one who could pull it off.  This puts a kink in my hopes for China, but then again, they did let him out.

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