Once upon a time, the Beijing Olympics was 5 years away, 2 years away, 1,000 days away, 489 days away.
All of a sudden, of course, it's three days from now. I've been to the Opening Ceremony rehearsals and so I feel it's actually here. So therefore, let me share with you some Olympic notes to gear you up for the occasion.
First of all, 更快、更高、更强 is not a Chinese invention. The somewhat petty idea of 夺取金牌，为国争光 (Winning gold to make your country proud) is (I wonder if someone ever tells all athletes that by representing China, they are making their country proud, winning or losing. But then again, this is perhaps telling too much and besides, looking past the perks of mega-bucks that comes with winning today is perhaps not so healthy after all – at any rate, it is more difficult of accomplishment than winning the medals). The idea of更快、更高、更强 is not. It is, instead, a transliteration of the universal Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, Stronger (Citius, Altius, Fortius in Latin).
Here are some Olympic notes I've collected for share, event by event:
Ancient Chinese poem:
When the archer shoots just for fun he has all his skill.
But when he shoots for score he finds his hands trembling, his breath uneasy.
And when he shoots for a grand prize he becomes mad and blind.
His skill did not diminish.
The vision of the prize changed him.
Jesse Owens (1913-80), black American:
Although I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.
So many Chinese play this sport that it's perhaps useful to offer something practical. When you hit (or rather mishit) the shuttle with the frame of the racket, it's called a wood shot because in the olden days the badminton racket was made of wood.
It's a legal shot.
Woody Allen, comedian:
When we played softball (a junior version of baseball), I'd steal second base, feel guilty and go back.
I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed... I've failed over and over and over again... And that is why I succeed.
Perhaps this is reassuring to the small man/woman who wants to play the two-a-side sandy version of volleyball:
You don't have to be tall or as fast as other sports. You just have to have the skills (Misty May-Treanor, American, 2004 Olympic champion).
I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.
Yes, this is an Olympic sport:
A whalebone and driftwood frame, with a sea-lion skin stretched tautly over it and waterproofed with whale fat, hardly suggests a budding Olympic sport. Yet the kayaks that meant life to the Inuits in the Arctic for centuries have become the racing kayaks of the modern world - even if the building materials have changed.
The link was 19th century British barrister John MacGregor. He studied the ancient kayaks, designed a similar boat and disappeared into the rivers and lakes of Europe's wilderness to become a noted travel writer of his time. When others copied his boat, he founded the Royal Canoe Club, and canoe regattas began a year later in 1866.
Canoe/kayak, consisting solely of the sprint, was a demonstration competition at the 1924 Olympic Games before gaining full-medal status in 1936.
Diane Ackerman, American writer, naturalist:
When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart.
Guo Jingjing, on winning more medals on home soil:
"I feel no particular pressure because I will only be competing with myself."
Pat Perelli, American advocate of natural horsemanship:
"If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong."
"The essence of fencing is to give, but by no means to receive.
Bill Shankly, Scottish:
Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.
Let us describe the education of men. What then is the education to be? Perhaps we could hardly find a better experience of the past which expresses the body than gymnastics. I believe, in gymnastic, for the body and music for the mind.
Artistic (艺术) gymnastics (体操) is not what we call艺术体操. Rhythmic (韵律) gymnastics is. Rhythmic gymnastics, an Olympic item since 1984, was also once (during the mid-20th century) called "modern gymnastics."
To be continued.