[Note: As my friend Justin noted, I am one of those Olympic nuts. And since there is not much else exciting going on in my life and many of my readers are also Olympic junkies (looking at you Faith), there will probably be a few posts about it.]
One of my favorite parts about the Olympics are the inspirational story montages that you watch in between events or read in the papers. This year, USA's flagbearer is Lopez Lomong, who "as a child was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, kidnapped from his family at 6 years old by soldiers before escaping to a Kenyan refugee camp." (NYT) In Kenya, he walked five miles to the nearest black and white television and watched American Michael Johnson win the gold medal. He decided that he wanted to do that. And here he is at the Olympics, carrying the American flag. He wants to raise awareness about what's going on in Sudan, but he said, “I come here to inspire kids who are out there watching this Olympics, as I did watching the Sydney Olympics.”
In addition to the "American Dream" stories, I love the tales about how people become national heroes for their own countries. One that I will always remember is from Sydney. Eric "the eel" Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea got to come to the Olympics based on a wild card draw, which was designed to help athletes from developing countries. He taught himself to swim in a small hotel pool eight months before the Olympics. Although he swam with his head above water, looked like he was going to drown, was in the pool by himself because the other qualifiers defaulted, and finished with a time 3x that of the winner, people were on their feet for him. He was not embarassed about being much slower than everyone else, he set a personal and national record. He can also call himself an Olympian.
Sometimes when you wake up and see that Russia and Georgia are attacking each other, the family member of an Olympic coach was brutally murdered in China, and Bernie Mac passed away, you need these stories to remember that there is still good out there.
[Photos courtesy of LAT & ABC]