August 13, 2008

Back home and catching up on the Olympics

I had a wonderful time with my family on the Cape, sunny days all except for one when we all went shopping and I made dinner for all 23 of us.  In a couple of weeks, I'll post a photo of all of us taken by a professional photographer.

Time away from the computer brought back a different rhythm to daily life.  Now that I'm back, so much has happened in the world, I'm spending a lot of time just catching up on the news.

First the Olympics.  I did get to see the marvelous spectacle of the opening ceremonies and parade of nations but not without a nagging discomfort at their cost both human and economic

Simon Jenkins articulated it best in Olympic crack in China's wall.

An Olympic Games must be the most expensive public gesture, in billions of dollars a day, that any nation can undertake in peacetime, a political spectacular masquerading as sport.

The IOC was drawn to China as the one big country to which it still had a quid pro quo to offer: international respectability. The IOC knew that China might be induced to spend huge sums, not by virtue of political reform, but to cloak the absence of such reform.

The IOC seems to have found in Chinese communism a shared language and nostalgia for the drilled utopianism of the mid-20th century. A large area of old Beijing has been razed and rebuilt with stadiums, office blocks and avenues, monuments to the modernising zeal of the party. Morally emasculated western architects have lined up for work, led by the son of Albert Speer as master planner.

Above all the Chinese have proved that the Olympics are about control. Lose control, as did the world torch tour and its “1,000 jogging policemen”, and you cannot deliver concord and good publicity. Instead, control has required the Chinese to arrest untold hundreds of human rights activists. It has rendered Tibet virtually inaccessible. Anyone concerned with protest, such as the signers of a letter pleading for “an Olympic spirit” in human rights, has been thrown in jail or removed from the capital; 100,000 troops have been brought in to ring the city.

Still, the Olympics always bring stories of courage, determination, persistence, hardship and glory.  My favorite so far is the story of Lomong. 

Where Once He Was Lost, Now He is Found

For seven years, China has dreamed of orchestrating every detail, athletic and political, of its glorious Opening Ceremonies to the Olympics. Now, one lean 1,500-meter runner from the United States, chosen by his teammates in an act of open defiance, may steal the show. Lopez Lomong, one of the Sudanese "Lost Boys" and a member of the anti-genocide group Team Darfur, has been chosen by his 595 U.S. Olympic teammates to carry our flag on Friday. What, we couldn't find a Tibetan monk on the team?

What a coincidence. Just hours before U.S. team captains met to decide on the flag carrier, Chinese officials rescinded the visa of Joey Cheek, a speedskating gold medalist who carried the U.S. flag at the Closing Ceremonies at the 2006 Winter Games and later co-founded Team Darfur. After that slap at Cheek, U.S. athletes here had almost nothing to say on the topic. One even referred to the subject as "the question they warned us about."

Perhaps they didn't answer individually. But the entire U.S. team gave its answer -- as a group and in capital letters -- with Lomong's selection. You jerk Cheek's visa. We put Lomong in your face. And do it proudly.

Here's the backstory of his foster parents who took in seven lost boys from Sudan, extraordinary people, ordinary Americans.

U.S. Flagbearer found new life in New York foster home.

When he learned he was coming to America, Lomong thought he would have to get a job and support himself. He didn't expect to have such supportive parents.

"I just thought they would just keep me for a little while, but they convinced me that this is your home," he said.

Anthony, 20, is a junior political science major at State University at Buffalo, where he plays soccer. In his first six weeks in America, Anthony went to Disney World, Washington, D.C., and Boston. He surprised the Rogerses when he told them the most amazing thing he had seen in America: "parents."

Posted by Jill Fallon at August 13, 2008 12:18 PM | Permalink