"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Function: intransitive verb
Etymology: Middle English smolderen to smother, from smolder smoke, smudge; akin to Middle Dutch smOlen to smolder
1 a : to burn sluggishly, without flame, and often with much smoke b : to be consumed by smoldering -- often used with out
2 : to exist in a state of suppressed activity
3 : what the Summer Olympic flame will be doing for the next four years.
To be honest, I was just dreading that something horrible would happen. And I was fully aware that there were people out there, lots of them, who intended something horrible to happen.
A lot of these people could have driven there.
But now here I sit, the Olympic cauldron has just been extinguished, and it all turned out all right. Well, except for that little burp in the Marathon, but that was just one idiot acting on his own.
Shame he had to wear Christian slogans on his costume though. Gives the rest of us a bad name.
So, here I am. The television is off and silent behind me, the first time in two weeks. Yet again, I feel I "know" people I have never met, and I rooted for them just like they were family.
My country won just over 100 medals, about a third of them were gold. China, on the other hand, only won about two thirds as many but over half of their metal is gold. The Dominican Republic, United Arab Emerates, Cameroon and Ireland only one one medal each, and that was gold.
I'll bet that Ireland is more proud of that one gold than we are of 30.
There were many struggles and stories of determination in these Olympics, and NBC did its best to keep us entertained with them. But there were some that flew under the radar.
For example, the tragic story of Eleni Iannou, a member of the Greek Judo team, and her live in boyfriend Giorgios Chrisostomides. By the end of the Olympics, she would be dead and he would be in critical condition in a warped Romeo and Juliet story.
It seems that only days before the start of the competition, the two of them argued over whether she could go and stay in the Olympic Village. She wanted to go. He demanded that she stay at the apartment with him. She refused, then he broke off their relationship.
She was so distraught that she turned and lept from their apartment window, four stories up, and landed on the concrete below.
She was critically injured, and in a coma. The doctors gave little hope.
Two days later, her boyfriend Giorgio lept from that same forth floor window in a second suicide attempt, out of remorse.
She eventually passed away from her injuries. It's too early to say about him.
It is so easy to forget, when we are watching superhuman feats performed a continent away then choreographed by the cameras of a multi-billion dollar media giant, these are just people. Sure, they are extremely talented people, every last one, but when it boils down to it they are just human.
They laugh, they cry, they love, they die, they feel joy, hate, remorse and hope just like the rest of us do. Maybe that's why these strangers end up feeling to us as friends.
All of us cringed when Gail Deevers fell on the hurdles.
All of us gasped when Paul Hamm fell onto the judging stand.
And all of us were outraged when the judges then scored a Russian athlete far too low and the crowd was outraged right along with us, stopping the entire event cold until things were put, at least partially, to rights.
Some things transcend language.
When Paula Radcliffe collapsed on the side of the road during the marathon, overcome by the grueling heat, humidity and hills, we felt the anguish in her face. We felt the frustration from one of the women's relay runners when during the handoff, her teammate stepped on her shoe and cost her critical time, losing the race right then, and we felt the hopelessness as she still put her shoe back on and continued. We felt the disbelief and loss when Gail Dever's fall on the hurdles pushed another hurdler out of competition, ending her Olympic dream through no fault of her own.
We felt that we were witnessing the retirement of an old friend when Rulon Gardner slowly removed his shoes and left them in the wrestling ring, a symbol that he was retiring.
On the other hand, how many moments of joy and accomplishment did we witness? Too many to count, too intense to forget. Greece's Fani Chalkia winning the 400 meter hurdles on home turf after the doping scandal that had sidelined two of her teammates. Israel’s Gal Fridman in the Mistral (sailing) winning his country's first gold medal ever. And who could forget the US Women's soccer team?
To all the athletes, thank you. We'll keep the Olympic flame smoldering until next time...
Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.
George F. Will
US editor, commentator, & columnist (1941 - )