Olympic torch is out
Praise to all who did their best in London
Most, if not all, Olympics are special. The just-ended London Games were especially so for Koreans, in not just athletic but also historical terms.
It took place in the same city where the newly-born country first appeared on the global stage of amateur sports in 1948, and ranked 32nd with two bronze medals. Sixty-four years later, it won 13 golds, eight silvers and seven bronzes to take fifth place. Would it be too much to say the jump mirrors the nation’s accomplishment in economics and other areas?
The athletes have not only become faster and stronger but more mature, accepting defeat with grace most of the time. The same was true of the audience at home, encouraging losers and thanking participants for their efforts. We give encouragement and praise to all competitors who did their utmost for themselves and the nation.
It is easy to become cynical about the Olympics. One may even doubt the motivation of the father of the modern games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who history says sought global peace and friendship by reviving them but some critics refute as him just wanting to show white people’s supremacy over people of different color. Racism is still alive today with imperialism giving place to nationalism and commercialism. Athletes and fans are just the actors and audience in money games crafted by sports moguls, broadcasters and multinational corporations.
All this notwithstanding, there are human dramas created by individuals trying to break limitations and better themselves by struggling against all odds, which cannot be prearranged. That makes wrong judgment calls and poor refereeing all the more egregious, which unfortunately were more noticeable in London than anywhere else. Even more unfortunately, some of the most conspicuous victims of such bad calls were Korean athletes.
It was regrettable in this regard that the Korea Olympic Committee (KOC), which should have prevented such cases with careful diplomatic efforts, instead blamed athletes, coaches and respective sports officials for the mishaps. We hope to see neither similar problems nor passing the buck by the KOC. The time has long past for Korea to have capable sports diplomats congruous with its athletic prowess.
Also pitiable is that we have to make the same calls every four years: train talent in basic events such as athletics and swimming, the so-called flower of the Olympic Games. Although Korea is showing its strength in more diverse events than ever before, it will never be able to earn recognition as a genuine sporting powerhouse without improvement in these areas.
North Korea’s advance also deserves comment and congratulations, although Olympic skeptics may recall the vestige of Cold War in athletic rivalry as the two Germanys did previously. One can only hope to see a real Team Korea, not Team ROK or Team DPRK, in the not too distant future.
The Olympic torch is out, for now, leaving two weeks of sleepless nights behind. Now Koreans should go back to normal, and observe different competitors, politicians. Which is why people will long for Rio de Janeiro, not minding those Olympic-bashers.