Saturday, August 6, 2016

Underdog Olympics

One thing that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, knows how to do is throw a party.

So when the loudspeakers blared the opening notes of the appropriately selected song "Brazil" and the audience roared its welcome, it should have come as no surprise that the flagbearer of the Brazilian Olympic team danced into Maracana Stadium.

I didn't stay up to see the entire Opening Ceremonies.  I did watch the Parade of Nations, which to me, is one of the best and most intriguing part of the Olympics. I enjoy seeing the outfits bedecking each nation's team members.  (In the case of the flagbearer from Tonga, more people enjoyed the fact that his chest was not bedecked in a national outfit.)

In the days leading up to these Games, I've seen speculation that they might be canceled, that Rio just wasn't ready for the Olympics.  I've heard about the raw sewage in the water.  I've heard about the poor Australians and their problems in the Olympic Village -- blocked toilets, a fire, and theft.  The host of this Olympics is an interim president.  The current president of Brazil is being impeached. And the budget of the Opening Ceremonies was cut.  Severely.

So, Rio resorted to what it knew how to do best:  Music, dancing, and color.  They channeled the energy that is Rio into Maracana Stadium.

People love the story of an underdog.  With an impeached president, a limited budget, and sanitation problems facing these Olympics, perhaps the city of Rio could be cast in the role of underdog.

I think that's one reason I like the Parade of Nations.  When the athletes march in, the commentators will often find a story about one or two of the athletes to humanize the representatives of that particular country.  Such as, the fact that Vietnam may have the chance to win its first Olympic gold medal, ever.  (They did.  Vinh Xuan Hoang won in the 10-meter air pistol event.)  Or, the triplets from Estonia -- Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik -- who will all compete in the marathon.  Their slogan?  "Trio to Rio."  We hear about such people, and we may think, "Nice story, but can they win?"  Thus, they become an underdog, and most people have a soft spot in their hearts for underdogs.

Before the audience roared their welcome to the Brazilian Olympic team, they paid tribute to who are, perhaps, the ultimate "underdogs" in these games.  They are ten athletes, five from South Sudan, two from Syria, and two from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, competing as members of the Refugee Olympic Team.  Their handle on social media is #teamrefugee, and they were greeted with a standing ovation.

The underdogs, more than anyone, probably appreciate the Olympic creed:  "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the more important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Rio, at the moment, is in the "fighting" stage.  According to one news commentator, Rio's answer to their critics will be to put on a good show.

So, crank up your bossa nova and brush up on your samba moves.  Rio de Janeiro is throwing a party and they have invited the world.

Let the Games begin!


Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

1 comment:

  1. not been feeling well, but watching Olympics non stop anyway. My very favorite thing!