Sunday, August 12, 2012
An Olympic Rule of Three
Can take the boy out of the country (ies), but can you fully take the countries out of the boy?
Okay, I'm a proud American. I exulted when Gabby Douglas shocked the world and won gold in the gymnastics all-around. I cheered when Serena Williams pounded the field on her way to her first singles gold medal. And, like everyone else, I applauded as Michael Phelps still walked (swam?) away from London with the most medals of any athlete in these Games. And that Team USA left with both the most overall medals and the most gold.
And yet...and yet...while a resident for more than forty years and a citizen for about a quarter century, American is not all I have ever been. I was born in the West Indies -- Trinidad & Tobago, to be exact. And then I moved to Great Britain barely a year later, where I lived until I was eight. How much of an impression did that leave (besides a now-lost accent)?
Well, enough that I could totally "get" this Times piece observing cracks in the usual stoic British sensibility have appeared due to hosting the Games. Despite the US-delivered nationalism, I was feeling, not far away was a need to see Great Britain do well (which it did -- registering the third most golds and fourth most overall, behind the US, China and Russia -- its best showing ever).
But beyond that, I realized that, while friends and colleagues " took the piss out of" the over-the-top opening ceremonies, I couldn't bring myself to go along. Why? I found myself truly enjoying the wild melding of artistry, campiness and -- most definitely, THE MUSIC. Not even the oddly fawning "tribute" to the National Health Service could seriously put a damper on my enjoyment. For that matter, not even the participation of one I usually find painfully unfunny -- Roward "Mr. Bean" Atkinson -- could forestall more than a few chuckles and belly laughs.
As the two weeks passed by, it was, as mentioned, great to see the US rake in medals. But it was more than excellent to also see adopted Brit Mo Farar get the gold medal in the 10,000 long-distance (and his US training partner, Galen Rupp, win silver). It was a great weekend to see Serena get her singles medal and followed by Scottish-born Andy Murray getting gold on the Wimbledon courts. Yes, the English and the Scots have a relationship considered "complicated" hundreds of years before Facebook adopted the term for status updates. But, so what? The English adopted Murray -- and "dour Scot" Murray basked in the adulation Great Britain showered upon him (if only he had managed to solve that pesky Roger Federer one month before AT Wimbledon, and, well, never mind...good job, lad)!
And then, on the final weekend, something surprising happened. While my two adopted countries engaged in a friendly rivalry for my Olympic allegiances, the nation of my birth put in a surprise appearance! In one of the most exciting relays ever, Usain Bolt-led Jamaica set a world record in the 4x100m; the US squad got.silver, equalling the old mark. And, winning bronze? Yes, little Trinidad and Tobago! Yes, T&T was the beneficiary of a Canada's disqualification (stepping on the line at the third exchange), but, hey, rules-is-rules. We'll take it -- especially this month which happens to be the 50th anniversary of British West Indies independence from, yes, Great Britain!
So, hey, one Commonwealth country excelled at the expense of another! Besides, Trindad and Tobago also scored a bronze in the 4x400m relay on Friday -- all fair and square.
The world of rhetoric loves the number three. On the other hand, we're only supposed to pledge allegiance to one country. On that score, it's not too difficult -- it's the United States. However, I can't honestly say that Great Britain didn't play a not minor part in shaping who I am. Finally, we all come from somewhere -- and that origin plays often unexplainable influences upon us.
I salute and thank my Olympic Three -- the nation who birthed me and adopted me. You have my sincere gratitude for medalling in my life!