All Day, Every Day

That’s what he kept saying. The fastest man ever. “All day, every day.” The Olympic Games have come and gone, and the essence that remains is contained in those four words. I saw people in tears because they had won a gold medal and I saw people in tears because they hadn’t. Others rejoiced because they finished third, or simply because they had made the final. Some were elated just to be there; to be part of the Olympics and to know they would forever be an Olympian. Being present, pushing themselves and competing at the very highest level with the best in their field had been their goal. All day, every day.

The emotions of the Games were intense and untempered. I was moved variously by the winners, the losers and the triers; by the stories, the families, the coaches and the experts. And everyone I listened to kept repeating the same mantra: they had all worked so hard to be there. For months, years, even decades, competitors had endured the long and desperately hard training sessions, the early mornings in the middle of winter; rising to run, swim or work out at those times of the day when the rest of us are never far from deep sleep.

The male gymnasts went out of their way to acknowledge each other’s routines, understanding the hard work which goes into being able to perform so powerfully, gracefully, unerringly. They were almost as pleased for each other as they were for themselves because all have felt the heartbreak of failure, and their empathy forbids them from ignoring its avoidance in others. It was the same everywhere, across all sports. There was disappointment of course, but that had more to do with expectations and misfortune, than having given everything and still not winning or qualifying. Regardless of results, the overwhelming emotions were achievement, acknowledgement and togetherness.

Every interview of every gold medalist followed the same pattern: disbelief, pain, gratitude. They were initially (and predominately) overwhelmed, repeatedly saying, “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe it.” Then, as if establishing the grounds to believe by rationalising their success, they recalled the huge efforts needed to reach the pinnacle of their sport. Their faces changed and their voices faltered as they remembered the pain, the sacrifices, the tortured years of disciplined application. At this point the tears began to form, leading them naturally into the recognition and gratitude that it had all been possible because of the unwavering support of family, friends and coaches alike. All day, every day.

In calmer conversations, competitors spoke of the highs and lows of training for the Olympics. They remembered the dark days when they thought they would give up, when they wanted to give up. But they carried on. The support they received allowed them to put themselves through the necessary pain. The pain allowed them to participate. And participation opened the door to an unforgettable experience. But it wasn’t just the athletes. The commitment of the volunteers and the crowd made the Games just as much a success as the sporting endeavour. The crowds at every venue provided more energy than most athletes have ever known. Their support and encouragement inspired those whom they had gathered to celebrate, and the synergy of an eager crowd and appreciative, focused athletes brought the best out of both groups.

So, with just the slightest of nods towards how the Olympic spirit and experience can help us improve ourselves and make the world a better place, the last word of this post goes to a commentator during one particular rowing final. One of the rowers had come to these Games having previously won silver in three consecutive Olympics. Her sole aim since her first silver at Sydney 2000 had been to win gold. At London 2012 she succeeded, and as the race neared its end the commentator paid tribute to her, and then addressed the rest of us, saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, what we are seeing here today is that dreams do come true.

All day, every day.

Related posts: Meat & Potatoes | Relax, You’re Going As Fast As You Can | Humanity’s Olympics

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