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Olympics2012Olympic Games are about living the dream

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 | 11:36 AM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Canadian basketball player Kim Smith will realize her life-long dream when she takes part in the London Olympics. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press) Canadian basketball player Kim Smith will realize her life-long dream when she takes part in the London Olympics. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

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They are almost here. The days number in the single digits now and the Olympics loom larger than life.London has made itself ready for the thousands of dreamers who are descending upon it even as we speak. And make no mistake the Olympics are unabashedly about hopes and dreams.
They are almost here. The days number in the single digits now and the Olympics loom larger than life.
London has made itself ready for the thousands of dreamers who are descending upon it even as we speak.
And make no mistake the Olympics are unabashedly about hopes and dreams.

This became very clear to me as I conducted my last athlete interview in advance of getting on the plane and making the journey overseas to cover my 11th Olympic spectacle. Kim Smith of the Canadian women's basketball team was the one who uttered the words.

"I was never one to dream about playing at the world championships or in the WNBA.  I always dreamed of playing at the Olympics," Smith beamed.  "Now that I know my dream will be realized it's hard to put into words the excitement that is coursing through my veins."

Hearing those words made me reflect on all that's happened on the threshold of these Games. So many aspirations fulfilled and yet there are others that will never be realized.
I thought of my friend, the late Randy Starkman.

Fond farewell

He was the dean of Olympic journalists in this country who was so looking forward to London 2012 and the culmination of all of the stories he had covered from the very beginning. I'll miss his companionship and wisdom at these Olympics.

I also thought of Perdita Felicien, the former world champion hurdler who hoped to have her final chance at recovery from the fall in Athens in 2004 where she was considered the favourite to win gold.  She won't get the chance because she fell short of qualifying for London.

"It feels unusual, surreal and it's a great disappointment," Felicien wrote in her blog.  "I've dreamed the biggest dream imaginable for myself and I've had the sweetest honour humanly possible in pursuing it."

Some dreams do die.

Dreams come to life

But there are others which are only now coming to life and they tend to give you faith that there is reason to believe in what the Olympics can symbolically mean.

It's unlikely that Oscar Pistorious, the double amputee runner from South Africa, grew up hoping to compete at the Paralympics. He dreamed of getting to the start line at the Olympics and in London he will finally get his chance.

Caster Semenya the 2009 world champion in the 800 metres will carry South Africa's flag into the opening ceremony. The questions concerning her gender have been answered and at her first Games experience she'll lead in a team full of hopeful athletes from a country which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its return to the Olympic family.

Different kind of country

For a generation, South Africa was banished from the Olympics because of its government's racially segregationist policy known as apartheid.  In London Semenya and Pistorious will become harbingers of a different kind of country - a country full of hopeful diversity.

One of the founders of the Modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, attached an importance to the Olympics which went well beyond winning medals or making money. Although he was an elitist and an aristocrat, he got the essence of the whole thing right.

"The important thing is not to triumph but to compete," de Coubertin wrote. "It is not to have vanquished but to have fought well."

Over the next month or so there will be a lot of talk about who wins and who loses and all of the logistical failures that London 2012 experiences. That's what happens when the world gathers in one place to engage in the greatest recurring spectacle on the face of the earth.

But let's not forget the reason we're watching in the first place. Kim Smith said it best.

"It's been my dream since I was a kid.  It's a chance for all of Canada and the rest of the world to see us," she said of her Canadian basketball teammates. "We want more kids who dream of the Olympics and representing their country."

I couldn't agree more.

I can't wait to get there and see everyone living the dream.

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