Friday, February 12, 2010

The Olympics Are Here

Up until a few weeks ago I was suffering from a serious case of the Olympic Grumps. I was annoyed by the parking restrictions, road closures, and line ups everywhere. I kept reading about the money being spent and then seeing the poverty and homelessness that affects the streets of Vancouver.

But something happened recently. It may have been all the talk on Twitter about the upcoming games. Or maybe it was the afternoon I went into the Olympic Store at the Bay and had my first glimpse of tourists here specifically for the event. I remember seeing a group with matching winter jackets. I think they were German with flags and logos all over their big warm jackets. The jackets were mostly wrapped around their waists as it was a warm, sunny day that barely required a jacket at all. (Yes, there's something wrong with the picture of Winter Olympics and Cherry blossoms, but I digress.)

I've become completely wrapped up in the hype of Olympic Fever. The excitement of all the people in town. The free events. The most definitely not-free events (none of which I'll be attending). Either way, it's a very exciting time to be in Vancouver. I plan to get downtown and try to absorb all of the positive energy I can.

Despite all this excitement I was struck by sadness today upon hearing about a tragic, fatal accident on the luge track in Whistler. The death of 21 year old Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was the talk of Twitter and news reports around town. So young. So sudden and tragic. So sad.

I stayed home this evening and watched the Opening Ceremonies on television. The whole thing had me on the verge of tears. Mostly it was from a sense of pride and excitement. I really burst into tears when the Georgian team walked into BC Place, removing their hats and receiving a standing ovation from a crowd of more than 60,000. Just to think of what shock the team must be in and how they must continue to put on the performance of their lives in their respective sport.

This isn't the first death to hit the Vancouver 2010 games though. In October 2009 Jack Poole, the head of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Committee, passed away from pancreatic cancer. And in August 2009 Leo Obstbaum, the chief designer for Vancouver 2010 passed away suddenly. These two men played huge roles in making the Vancouver Olympics what they are today.

While watching the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the athletes with such anticipation in their eyes I feel inspired. I think we can all learn and be encouraged by their dedication and hard work. At the same time, I think we can take the same from the deaths of the three men who have influenced the Olympics. Without Jack's vision, the Olympics may not have been brought to Vancouver. Without Leo's talent, the games would have a very different look. And without Nodar's athleticism and love of his sport, games such as the Olympics would not be possible.

We can also take away how precious life is. It can change in an instant. So as the games continue, I will watch and cheer on my country. I'll also remember the dedication, talent and hard work that goes into all aspects of the games and I'll cherish the opportunities that I have to incorporate these qualities into my own life, even in the smallest ways.

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