Olympic spirit appears to be alive and well for now

Audio: MInnPost journalist Jay Weiner talks about the tradition of the “Olympic truce.”

Here’s another post from one of our four student bloggers at the Olympics:

Nathan Cooper: A snapshot of the real Olympic spirit

Nathan Cooper
Nathan Cooper

Nobody has to look far to find proof of what’s wrong with the world. China or elsewhere, talk of problems, issues and scandals dominates coverage. I’ve opened the door for a cheap shot at the Chinese media, but I’ll refrain. Insert your own propaganda joke here.

The Beijing Olympics employ “One World, One Dream” as their tagline. And as impossible as it might be to achieve in the so-called real world, the Games provide an opportunity to see what this single world and single vision might look like.

As I mingled among coaches and wrestlers on Monday afternoon in a feeble attempt to fetch productive quotes, one scene in particular struck me as genuinely Olympic.

A colleague and I had conversed about what a Georgia vs. Russia matchup in a wrestling medal match would mean to those wrestlers, those nations and the international media coverage.

Such a scenario wasn’t unfathomable.

At the 60kg weight class a day later, a surprise Russian won a gold medal in a tournament where a Georgian was favored.

Fewer than 15 minutes after the conversation wrapped up, we found ourselves chatting beside one of several practice mats outside the Georgian locker room. A Russian wrestler paced toward a Georgian athlete and put his arm around him. Their conversation continued for several minutes in a lighthearted tone, from what I could gather.

I can’t speak Russian, or Georgian. Being wrestlers, not language scholars, there wasn’t a whole lot of English going around among the competitors, either. Besides, my job strictly prohibits political questions. I work for the Olympics, something the IOC would prefer calling an apolitical sporting event, remember?

But I wish I had a camera at that moment. It might have won an award.

If there were one image to capture the Olympic spirit, that was it. They weren’t talking as rivals, as their warm-up jackets may have otherwise suggested. They were just a couple of guys shooting the breeze in what’s supposed to be an event that begins with a truce. These guys had it down. Friendly acquaintances now, opponents in sport tomorrow, then back to friendly acquaintances after a congratulatory handshake.

Trying to pull that off in the real world? Sounds like a dream.

Nathan Cooper is a volunteer flash-quote reporter for the Olympic News Service and is a 21-year-old University of Iowa senior from Glenville, majoring in journalism and political science. He has reported sports, government and business for the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune, the Iowa City Press-Citizen and the UI’s student-produced Daily Iowan. He can be reached at nathan-cooper@uiowa.edu.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Micah Sittig on 08/14/2008 - 11:25 am.

    > I work for the Olympics, something the IOC
    > would prefer calling an apolitical sporting
    > event, remember?

    “Would prefer” couldn’t be more true. Too bad Beijing keeps getting in the way…

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