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Olympics2012Connecting with people lifeblood of Olympics

Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 | 09:26 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Hassan Abdulla Al-Mohamedi, right, the press attache for Qatar, talks to CBC News about the first woman to compete for his country at the Olympic Games. (Scott Russell/CBC Sports) Hassan Abdulla Al-Mohamedi, right, the press attache for Qatar, talks to CBC News about the first woman to compete for his country at the Olympic Games. (Scott Russell/CBC Sports)

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The great thing about being in the Olympic Park is the chance to connect with the people who are the lifeblood of the Games.
The great thing about being in the Olympic Park is the chance to connect with the people who are the lifeblood of the Games.

The media, the volunteers, the fans, the athletes and the parents who make it all happen. Together they manage to write the Olympic story and to illustrate it with so much colour and texture.

Without the people there can be no Olympic Games.

Today, two young Spanish women asked me if I could get tickets to a basketball game of their men's team who was playing against Russia. When I explained I had no tickets to give them they thanked me and wished me well.

"Good luck to Canada," they said.  I guess maybe they thought I was on the team.

Then again, maybe we're all on the same team.

My colleague Peter Akman of CBC News is working on a story about gender equity at the Games. He interviewed a guy from Qatar who we encountered while riding the media bus. The man, it turns out, is the press attache for Qatar and was proudly wearing his lavender-coloured uniform. He agreed to have Peter ask him about the first woman to compete for his country at the Olympic Games.

"It's a proud moment for our country," said Hassan Abdulla Al-Mohamedi. "She's not the first woman to represent Qatar at an international event but for her to be here at an actual Olympic Games is significant."

The only disappointment he had was that Noor Hussein Al-Malki was unable to finish her heat in the 100-metres because of an injury and had to be taken from the track in a wheelchair.

Canada's Hayden proudly displays Olympic bronze medal

Then while we were at the entrance to the Athlete's Village, I felt a tap on the shoulder. There was Brent Hayden proudly carrying his bronze medal won in the men's 100m freestyle at swimming.

Hayden was positively beside himself. Fresh off learning he had helped Canada qualify for the 4x100 medley relay final, he was going to meet with his fiance Nadina to show her his prize.

He was just a kid in a candy store and eager to share his glee with everyone he met.

Fans from other countries took his picture not knowing who he was and he played along because I'm sure it felt good to him to, at long last, bask in the glow of the great accomplishment.

And then Brent had words of praise for his coach Tom Johnson who has mentored him for almost a dozen years with the Dolphins swim club in Vancouver.

"It's been like a father-son relationship," Hayden said.  "I'm just so happy for him because I believe I'm the first individual Olympic medalist he's ever produced."

Then, after passing the medal around and urging us to touch it, Brent tucked it away in its case and rushed off to see Nadina. But not before telling us how proud he was of the new musical album that she'd had released.

It was very special to be surrounded by such a joyful man.

Finally, we had a rendezvous with shot putter Dylan Armstrong's family. His mother Judy and his brother David are from Kamloops, B.C., while uncle Barry and aunt Carla hail from Fort St. John, B.C.

The four of them, just a British Columbia foursome passing the time until Canada's gold-medal hopeful could get down to business in the final.

"He's the people's champ," said David, who was wearing an outrageous red and white Maple Leaf suit that Don Cherry would be proud of.  "We're pretty good at pumping up Kamloops and so is Dylan.  He's done a lot for that town."

Judy, was a little more nervous.  She's worked hard to build up track and field in the B.C., interior and knows that Dylan was a little tentative in the qualifying round.  She also knows that her son is important to so many back home.

"He's inspired a lot of kids to love shot put," Judy said.  "I'm confident.  Now he's in the final he'll know what to do."

Today, I'm going to leave it at that.

The results are what they are.

It seems to me in meeting everyone I did on Day 7, that to be here is a small victory in itself.  
There will always be champions and runners up. There are those who expect to win and ultimately lose. But there are just as many dark horses who surprise us all.

As each athlete faces the moment of truth on the field of play they learn to take nothing for granted. Every competitor is on his or her own when it comes to this.

But they also come to understand that behind their performances are the people who make all of this possible. The supporters and the friends...the rivals they can't do without.
It's the people who make the Games, and in the end, we're all on the same team.  

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