Aug 14




IT is not easy to run out of superlatives in the modern age. Fashionable words do  get round the world quickly, don’t they?

One can say that the Olympics were a “super” spectacle.

Or that they were “fabulous”.

Next would come “fantastic”.

Followed by “extraordinary”

And “amazing.”

Or “incredible!” “Indescribable”. Could one slip in the  relatively anachronistic “out of sight”?

Which of these expressions would adequately convey the sense of wonder with which the Olympic Games have infused us over the past fortnight?


Let me confess: I cried a lot. Well, I didn’t intentionally cry. I just saw certain scenes which sent messages to the areas of my brain where the crying wires are situated. And they sent signals that brought tears to my eyes. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

A man doesn’t cry!” the Twi proverb says. (Obarima nsu!) But ho! The tears flowed. What does a proverb know?

In fact what brought the tears was usually, the sheer beauty of the spectacle presented to the eye by the modern TV screen. High-definition TV, properly tuned, presents pictures that are almost literally out of this world.

So, although I am no admirer of swimming events, for instance — which I think overload the medals in favour of countries that can afford to build Olympic-sized swimming pools and employ swimming tutors to teach their kids how to swim – I nevertheless kept watching swimming events. This was because when water is hurled upwards in a gush and breaks down into droplets during a slow-mo replay, or splashes about in waves in the pool, as the swimmers charge forward, the interplay of white and blue colours in the pool, offset by the sea-monster-like appearance of the swimmers as they break the surface, combine to present a picture that takes one’s mind subconsciously to what happens when one sees the paintings in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for the first time. How can anything be so beautiful?


But even such beautiful sights are no match for the evidence of sheer effort that the Games have been presenting before our eyes again and again. Who can forget the pain writ large on the face of Mo Farah as he tried to prevent himself from being pipped for the gold medal in the 5,000 metres race? Everyone else in the race was trying his hardest. But Mo managed best to put effort and desire and endurance together and pull it off.


And when he threw himself down to kiss the earth, and draped himself with the colours of his adopted country, one realised that one had seen a supreme moment in human history. In fact, one was privileged to see that happen twice. For Mo Farah had done the same thing before — in an earlier, much more demanding race: the 10,000 metres. Oh, what a guy. What an accomplishment.


Effort+exhilaration=Usain Bolt, though, doesn’t it? Bolt’s performances are the stuff of fiction, not of real life. No-one else has been able to retain an Olympic title straight out in the 100 metres. Carl Lewis did eventually get a second gold in 1988 to follow the one he won in 1984, but that was after Ben Johnson’s disqualification for taking drugs.


Bolt’s haul of six gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games in sprint races would be difficult to equal, even if it was left at that. But there is also the small issue of the Olympic records broken by Bolt. He did the 100m in 9.63 (just 0.05 seconds below his own world record of 9.58 secs) and took Jamaica home to set another Olympic record of 36.84 secs. Both Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, the figures who, historically, come close to Bolt, were long-jumpers as well. And remember that Bolt came to London having recovered from a back pain that had enabled his fellow-countryman, Yohan Blake, to beat him twice in the Jamaican pre-Olympic trials. What would have happened had Bolt been fully fit?


And what would have happened had Boltg not had the knack, in some of his earlier races, of deserting his tunnel vision and looking at his opponents as he ran? (Take the 19.19 200m record, for instance)? Bolt takes things easy. And so probably loses mini-seconds that could make his record even greater.


But it is his easy personality that makes the world love him. There has to be a trade-off. One day, if he continues like he’s doing and does not get injured, seriousness and effort will come together for him and he will set a time that may never be equalled in history.


Anyway, I acknowledge that I am biased in favour of Bolt and his accomplishments. But if so, I am in very good company. Look at how the London Guardian put Bolt’s accomplishments into perspective:


When Usain Bolt took the baton for the final leg of the final event in the London Olympic Stadium [the 4x100m] he found himself, for what felt like the first time in four years, in a real race. He was almost shoulder to shoulder with the USA’s Ryan Bailey, who was running in the lane outside him. Bailey took the USA to the line in a time of 37.04sec, which equalled the old world record. The trouble was, by the time he did that,Bolt was already beginning to celebrate a new one. Bolt, Yohan Blake, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter ran the 4x100m in 36.84, the first team in history to run under 37 seconds.”


The Guardian quoted Bolt as saying afterwards that “this would be his last great Olympics.”It would “be hard to repeat” what he had done in London in 2016, because “Blake will be 26 by then”. Bolt has surpassed Carl Lewis as the most decorated sprinter in Olympic history. He has six gold medals, which is one more than Lewis managed to win on the track.”


It is a pity that Bolt was put through an irritating few minutes, after the relay by one of the Olympic officials. Bolt had wanted to take away, as a souvenir, the gold-coloured baton the Jamaican team had used in the record-breaking race. But an official took it from him! Bolt was as surprised as anyone else. Fortunately, another official overruled the first and Bolt was given the baton back. I was puzzled: didn’t the official realise that Bolt was the greatest event of London2012 and that as the star of the show, he had to be indulged a bit? A baton to be thrown away in the heap of rubbish that would later be collected from the park?


There isn’t enough space here to mention everything I enjoyed during the Games. But I can say that the table tennis matches were beyond belief. Some of the players were so good that they could smash and see their smashes smashed through and yet be able too return them with frurther smashes. It was almost as if they did it by magic.


Then there were the women’s volleyball matches, during which I observed that in Brazil, skill and beauty often go together. There was an incredibly beautiful woman called Jaqueline Carvalho whose exploits left me gasping for breath. She scored 18 points, and with her captain, Fabiana, was largely ble for Brazil beating the USA with scores of by 11-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17.


The women’s basketball was equally enthralling. Extending their Olympic dynasty run to a fifth gold medal in a row, the US women’s basketball team overpowered France 86-50 in the final. The French team included players who were clearly of African origin, such as Yacoubou and Gomis.


The last event I witnessed was the men’s basketball final, in which the USA beat Spain by 107 to 100. It was nice to see some of the best players in the NBA, especially Leron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, in the same team. It was also nice to see that teams from other countries are getting very close to the USA in both skill and finesse.


Now the question: why aren’t there Olympic Games every two years instead of once in every four? I suppose if such spectacular performances as we have seen in 2012 came our way too often, we would begin to take Olympic sports for granted, and would enjoy them the less for that. Despite the existence of the world championships, the Olympics have a charm of their own, and it is a good thing not to over-indulge in them. Meanwhile, I doff all the hats I own to the British organisers, who made London2012 something never to be forgotten.


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