Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic Notes

This blog began on 2009, but having been an almost daily preoccupation, it seems much older—so much so that I thought I’d look back to see what I had written about the last Olympics only to discover that I hadn’t written anything. Neither about the Olympics—nor yet about the last presidential contest. Surprise.

Such events—well separated in time—have a certain character. I tend to forget, except as a token, the sequence of feelings that they will produce. Hence a kind of recurrence marks them; each time they come, I think: “That’s what I thought the last time too.” I will leave the negative reactions to sleep like dogs. Yesterday came two pleasing events. One was Dressage Riding, my Father’s passionate avocation. It has retained its spirit of sportsmanship, not to say aura of aristocracy—the reason why, this year, it was subject to sneers. My Father was a genuine product of the Austro-Hungarian empire; to be sure he arrived after it had passed, but its spirit still lingered in the Hungarian military. He was highly-enough qualified so that the family expected him to make the Hungarian national team in 1940—but World War II interfered (link). His other favorite sport was Fencing. It delighted me to see the Women’s team win a bronze medal in that sport—an achievement for a team ranked fifth over all. We only saw the last match-up in which Courtney Hurley defeated the 2004 Olympic champion, Anna Sivkova of Russia, to clinch the team’s achievement. Sometimes a bronze feels like gold. Other team members were Maya Lawrence and Kelley Hurley, Courtney’s older sister.

Two further notes—extending the timeline. Such games as these are the hallmark of secular times—although the Olympics began in 776 BC—which was decisively not a secular era in Greece. But as such times set in in earnest, the spectacles become more and more, well, secular. Thus it did not surprise me that Emperor Theodosius stopped such events—or they terminated during his reign.. He was engaged in imposing Christianity on the empire, and the times were turbulent. The ancient Olympics thus lasted for 1169 years. Nor does it surprise me that the Olympics were revived beginning in 1796 in Revolutionary France before evolving to the current games by 1856. Can we read into that, using such evidence, that Christendom, as a cultural epoch, lasted from 393 to 1796—thus 1404 years? Food for contemplation in the practice of the only sport I’m still capable of: walking. But my walk has nothing to do with the Olympic kind. Practice of that would surely land me in a hospital in just 15 minutes. Time is very elastic, you might say.

1 comment:

  1. You know, that little Hungary sure does excel in the Olympics. It is a nation with a population just shy of 10 million and as of August 8th had the ninth most metals in this year's Summer Olympic Games. That is something!

    And we too have enjoyed watching the less... high profile sporting events in this year's games, Fencing and Kayaking being among my favorites but Dressage also ranking up there. One has to love a sport in which the horse has to be at least 12 to have learned enough to compete and in which riders are not infrequently over the age of 40!