Tonight I watched the 2006 Winter Olympics flames extinguished in Torino, Italy led by brides clad in white carrying electric candles in their conical bouquets. Another era setting. I experienced a moment of sadness. I never did like goodbyes, nor the dusk of dreams. Although I barely watched the ceremonies or activities these last two weeks, I recalled at its conclusion, the magic that I felt in my youth -- a magic of a faith that believed that everything would be alright if people in all nations could come together for two weeks in peaceful competition and team spirit. Five continents interlocked by common dreams even as we are torn by war in the middle east and terrorist activities. Sometimes it seems it's possible again to overlook our strifes for a universal good.
In these two weeks, we see beautiful moments such as American speed skater Joey Cheek donating his entire Olympic award money to a charity for children. He carries the American flag onto the stage on the final night of the Olympics. Women in beautiful sculptural white gowns with a miniaturized replica of the Italian winter countryside and mountains parade in long lines of white. Fellini-inspired clowns file in...tenor Andrea Bocelli croons in the finale, eyes closed... Pagini's dragon exhales fire. Here tonight men adorned in a fabric flesh of flame red--live sparks flying behind them-- race around the Olympic lit torch, symbolizing that "the passion lives here" in Italy's Olympic moment. Children sing in hauntingly innocent sweet voices- the voices of idealistic faith-- as an Italian 50 km long distance skiier Giorgio Di Centa is crowned as a gold medalist by his sister, also a gold medalist. He stands in his ultimate moment of glory among his countrymen at his award ceremony and you wonder what he's thinking about as he stands tallest on the platform at the pinnacle of atlethic world success, only 8 seconds from second place. As I watched the Italian acrobats with skis and skateboards dressed in futuristic white suits, arms spread wide dance like doves above a 25 mph wind lifting them, defying gravity... magic seemed possible again here where all is quiet but an ethereal melody. White sashes spiral up, confetti whirls down as these floating beings are suspended in time. Yet I'm reminded of the bittersweet truth that this suspension of life's gravity was only temporary.
Regretfully, I noticed that Olympics seem less central these days... only on one channel. I thought that when I was a child, it used to be on every channel and in fact, I felt as if the world held its breath for two weeks, all eyes focused on one part of the world that contained the heart of the world's every nation. I barely recognized any of the new figure skaters-- the last one I followed was Michelle Kwan vaguely... the last time I remembered watching her, she was considered very young for her sport and now when I watched it this year, she is considered nearing the last season of her possibilities for this sport... too old.
I wondered if Americans don't seem to follow Olympics as much these days because we have lost touch with the personalities who were competing much the way that I have whereas in the past, I felt I was able to live their dreams with them on the world stage. Even as I complained that we should care more about Olympics and what it represents, I found myself flipping through tv channels all competing for the Sunday night viewers... the final night for "Dancing with the Stars" (Drew Lachey won the ballroom dancing competition!) on ABC, Olympics on NBC and on occasion, checking channel CBS for a glimpse of "Cold Case." My recent favorite show "Supernatural" on WB wasn't on tonight so one less competition for my attention tonight. I heard that American Idol won more viewers in the USA compared to the Olympics on the night of the female singles figure skating recently which is astonishing. What does it say about Americans when our commercialism trumps our respect and attention to these rare international moments of beauty as represented by Olympics? I must add though in my defense, I am not much into sports and prefer the arts although I used to watch Olympic figure skating quite religiously (but what alternative did I have as a kid with restricted tv viewing?) given its more artistic nature. I am proud of the fact that I managed to watch one full night of the single woman figure skating event -- witnessed a Japanese woman Shizuka Arakawa win her first Olympic gold, American Sasha Cohen winning the silver, and Russian Irina Slutskaya winning the bronze. Phew! Anyway, I believe that children should all be taught the value and beauty of the Olympic spirit and what it represents about international peace and collaboration even in competition.
I think there should be an Olympic Arts event as well -- I guess the problem is that it's hard to evaluate the arts when beauty is subjective. Already I would argue that figure skating is also highly aesthetic and thus, not an easy sport to evaluate. Well then, I wish to see an international week or two to showcase world arts from music, performance arts to visual arts -- maybe not a real competition but there should be some criteria to even get a viewing.
Okay, back to tv... maybe catch the reruns of the Olympics since I missed it earlier... thank goodness for reruns and second chances.