Over the weekend, the Telegraph gave us a small glimpse into Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, when Olympic Stadium will be “turned into the British countryside.” All I can see is giant flowers that are going to come alive and eat people, but the Olympics aren’t going to be hosted in my studio apartment, so I guess my opinion doesn’t matter. Paul McCartney will be there, and Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire fame, will be at the helm. Supposedly they know how to put on a good show. I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.
After a fabulous weekend attending the wedding of my college roommate, I can safely say I am not in Olympic form, but fortunately for us couch potatoes, other people are. The athletes have all arrived in London, the final touches are being placed about the city, and excitement is reaching a fever pitch. Less than a week to go!
Number 6 on our list, Jesse Owens’ dramatic triumphs:
In 1936, Germany, just starting to bounce back from the ramifications of World War I, had been under the rule of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party for 3 years. Hitler was using these Games in Berlin to showcase what he perceived to be the superiority of his tailored Aryan race. So, obviously it was a prime place to have a goodwill event like the Olympics.
It would be another 30 years before the civil rights movement would begin, but Jesse Owens had risen to the top of his sport despite the immense social disadvantage. He had made a name for himself at the Ohio State University, winning eight individual NCAA championships, but even as a proven champion, he came into this Olympics with the intense responsibility of proving something in front of a powerful dictator, with the whole world watching.
Owens was able to win four gold medals in 1936: one for the 100 meters, one for the 200 meters, one for the long jump, and one for being a member of the 4×100 meter relay team. Owens stood on top of the Olympic podium four times in that Olympic Games, each time a silent declaration that Hitler’s philosophies were incorrect, and that racism and segregation everywhere was wrong.
Owens’ victories didn’t change anything overnight. We still have the entire Holocaust and World War II to go through at this point. But his life is an important example of perseverance, and I think, the responsibility we all carry to make the world a little better with each footstep.
“Although others have gone on to win more gold medals than Jesse, he remains the best remembered Olympic athlete because he achieved what no Olympian before or since has accomplished. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler’s master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another.” – from JesseOwens.com
#7 Mary Lou Retton
#8 USSR v. USA
#9 Abebe Bikila
#10 Wilma Rudolph
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