I remember Flo Jo.
I remember the long, lithe legs that moved Flo Jo with the grace of a gazelle, the speed of an antelope, the strength of a Bengal Tiger. I remember the long, polished fingernails, the face of a model, a softness that belied her fierce competitive nature.
I remember watching Flo Jo sprinting to history wearing a multi-colored uniform with one leg almost to the ankle while stopping above the thigh on the other leg. I remember watching Flo Jo set a world record, then another, then another.
The reason I remember Flo Jo is not only because of her grace, her beauty, and her success, but more importantly it is because of her performance in the Olympic Games.
I remember staying up after midnight so I could see Flo Jo run live. I remember watching track and field, gymnastics, swimming, and on and on. The Olympics were the pinnacle of sports. The Olympics were the pinnacle of National awareness – of National pride.
As I look back I can remember how each day there seemed to be another buildup of a potential gold medal winner. Names that had been obscure became household names. Obscure sports became important to our National pride.
To the entire world, the Olympic Games represented hope and pride.
Today, the Olympic Games represent disease, incompetence, corruption, doping, fear, – and, yes – sports competition. (I think.)
While the buildup of recent Olympic Games has normally concentrated on the athletes and on the grandeur of the various venues, the buildup of the 2016 Games has concentrated on the unsafe conditions the athletes will find in Rio.
Those involved in water sports face trash, filth, bacteria, and disease. Pictures of junk and trash gathered in the water has permeated the Olympic picture for months. While what I see and hear certainly gives pause, at the same time, I have to recognize the world we live in today.
I can drive down to the Markland Dam and take a picture of junk and debris that has gathered at the corner of the Dam. This is natural. Does the fact that there is debris in the water make it a major health issue?
Maybe – Maybe not.
What it doesn’t do is take precedent over all else.
If the water isn’t enough to destroy the Olympics, then the Zika virus might be. At least the threat of the virus is the excuse for the top golfers in the world to withdraw from the Olympics.
Of course, no one asked the actual experts about the threat. For instance, Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, says while pregnant women should not go to Rio, there is no more chance to get the Zika virus in Rio than in any other country where mosquitoes are prevalent.
It doesn’t matter, now that we have instilled environmental fear for both the water sports and the land sports, we have to figure out how to take the focus away from the indoor sports.
How better to do that than to concentrate on performance enhancing drugs. How better than to concentrate on positive doping tests from four or eight or 12 years ago. Based on those “new” positive tests from “old” samples, it became more important to purge the past than develop the future.
Still, Friday night we will see the pageantry that is the opening ceremony for the 2016 Olympic Games. We will see wave after wave of athletes, each representing their country. Each carrying their individual and their nation’s hopes and dreams.
Friday will be the opportunity to put the negatives aside and to introduce what should be the sporting event of the year.
I predict this won’t happen.
I predict the media coverage will concentrate on the unfinished, unlivable athlete dorms. I predict the media will concentrate on the massive security in place – and the fact that neither the National police nor the private security forces have been paid. I predict the media will continue to concentrate on health concerns, accusations of corruption, doping, and on and on.
I predict there will be at least one media group covering the opening ceremonies that forgets to mention that sporting competition will follow.
But then, this is 2016. This is the time when negativity rules.
Unless, of course you are a Cubs fan like I am, or a Colts fan like I am.
The Cubs are the best team in baseball this year – or not.
The Colts play the first preseason football game Sunday night. The fact that the Sunday night Colts game is the first Monday night football game of the season says something – I’m not sure what.
What I am sure is that the 2016 Olympics start this weekend and it is time to support the positives of the Olympics. It is time to support the Olympic athletes.
The Olympics, the Cubs, and the Colts on the same weekend.
Enjoy – I know I will.
– Mike Cooney