ATHENS, Greece - Anyone can win with dignity. It's what our society is all about, coming first, beating others, kickin' ass and takin' names. The glory, the money and indeed the whole point of the Olympics is about that gold medal and the gleaming eyes and tear-stained cheeks of the victor watching his or her face up huge behind their rising flag and the national anthem.
That's the heart of the Olympics. But for me its soul is in the vanquished. Sentimental maybe. I admire the winners but I do love the losers.
Spare a moment for the Greek women's 400-relay team. The stadium erupted in loud support, the decibel needle went right off the meter as the Greek sprinters took their positions, Greek flags blotted out the world as 70,000 people did the wave, the vast majority screaming “Hellas! Hellas! Hellas!”
Apparently unimpressed by that screaming crescendo of home-crowd support, the Greeks managed to trail in dead last and not only last but so far behind it looked like they were in a different race. They lost by twenty-six seconds in a three and a half minute race. It doesn't even seem possible.
It was quite a sight. The shattered disbelieving Greek supporters seemed in unison to go "Huh!" as if they couldn't believe their eyes. Flags hung limply by their sides. Jaws hung slack. Coke dribbled from bottles. Hellas?
Alas, the vanquished, indeed humiliated relay team again seemed unimpressed by the crowd. Whooping, leaping, hugging, smiling, waving, the four girls had the time of their life in a victory lap of their minds. Draped in the blue and white of the Greek flags and pursued by one lone loyal photographer they posed for photos against a backdrop of the disappointed crowd. Then again they broke off into joyful leaps and bounds like youthful Bambis.
If they lost the race, they didn't seem to know. They had a great, great time. And for me, the Greek women's relay team were the winners of the race. They didn't get no medal, but they sure got the soul.
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