“They’ve done everything you’ve asked of them! And they did it with all of you laughing in their face. Hey, it doesn’t matter tomorrow if they come in first or fiftieth. Those guys have earned the right to walk into that stadium and wave their nation’s flag. That’s the single greatest honor an athlete can ever have.” –Cool Runnings
Though the story is sports legend, I think that the film Cool Runnings is incredibly underrated. I’ve loved the film since it came out, leaving its mark on my childhood. The underdog story, redemption and determination, cliché as they may sound, cannot be told enough. It is also difficult to call the film cheesy because, by and large, it happened. But this is not a defense of the comedic stylings of Doug E. Doug. It’s about what is striking me as I watch the Olympic figure skaters glide across my television screen.
Every time I hear Irv address the committee that disqualified his team, defending the men that he coached and telling them about the pride that comes with representing one’s homeland, I’m overcome with the image he presents. While the opening ceremonies tend to be tedious and long, the men and women marching under their nations’ flags always gives me chills. There is so much hope and excitement, so much joy to be known as American, Canadian, Swedish, Peruvian, Kenyan, or wherever they come from. No matter the state of the world and politics abroad, these athletes somehow transcend the mess that they may come from. They stand proud, representing the best that their home has to offer. They are work and pain, perseverance and perfection. It is only rivaled, perhaps, by the awarding of medals. As the athletes wrap their flags around their shoulders and the arena is filled with their national anthem, it brings tears to my eyes. There is recognition and fame that comes to the athlete, but it’s also something bigger, something that their entire nation joins in. They do not stand alone at the podium, march alone into the games. They bring a people with them. I cannot begin to imagine the overwhelming pride and humility that must battle within.
And then there are the medals. The ultimate sign of success, a symbol of excellence. No other award, no matter the prestige it carries, can quite compare. There is something different, definitive, immortal about an Olympic medal. However, more than any other award, more than any nomination or contention, I think that the bigger honor comes from being included. To train, which seems such an insufficient word for their efforts, and reach Olympic qualification is, itself, a victory. To be among the best on earth, the elite, is itself honor. I do not think that any athlete would refuse a medal or try not to win, but I would think that being a part of the games, being a part of history in that capacity, would be surreal.
I’m not sure what it is about the Olympics that gets a person like me so revved up. I don’t watch the Super Bowl, let alone other sporting events on television. I’m not a sports aficionado. However, every other year, there is something magnetic about the athletes converging and competing. There is something beautiful and peaceful amidst the fierce rivalries. There is hope. Hope is palpable, emanating from the tv. There is hope for the athletes, to see the reward for their faithful labor. There is hope for the nations, to have their children bring honor and victory home. There is hope for humanity, that we can come together, win together, cry together, lose together, and simply be together.
“Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” –Cool Runnings