Friday, August 5, 2016

The Summer Winter Games

It's been 7 years since the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. Tonight at long last the games will indeed begin, and tomorrow the world's athletes will put politics aside and get on with the business of competition.

40 years have elapsed (or lapsed, depending on your point of view) since I attended the Summer Olympics in Montreal. Those were, from a geographer's perspective, noteworthy for having been held in summer, unlike these games, which are being held in Rio's winter. Good thing, too, as today was the first day in a week that could reasonably have been called hot.

'16 feels very much like a major case of second verse same as the first: in '76 the state of the unfinished facilities was bemoaned, the worst traffic in world history was expected, the East Germans were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs - and were later found to have run a state-sponsored doping system... does all of this sound familiar?

The cast of characters has changed, but the drive to excel and the desire to be the best haven't - thankfully - changed a bit.

Sooner or later, someone will touch the wall first. Someone will lean at the finish and win by a hundredth, and we will adjudge one performance as better and more significant, no matter the path. Someone will rip the entry. Someone will score a penalty kick, rip off her jersey, and change sporting life for a generation of girls. Someone will stick the landing.

We'll never forget it.

Today my tour group went to Sugarloaf, one of Rio's vertical promontories, and we had much excitement when the return gondola was closed in anticipation of the arrival of the Olympic torch. There we were, stranded at the intermediate station, but with views like this, that's some kinda stranded.

The torch didn't arrive while we were there, but it was interesting to see how the possibility of it turned us into giddy children.

There is magic left in all of this after all.


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