The dictionary explains the condition “disappointment” with many words: dissatisfaction, distress, discontent, disenchantment and regret. In brief, it means the feeling of being let down, a result of something unexpected and frustration.
In 1980, I saw all these things in the faces of 219 United States Athletes who would not get a chance to compete. They had trained diligently and tirelessly for years preparing themselves for this event… for minutes in the sunlight.
With a single stroke of his pen, President Jimmy Carter completely wiped out their dreams, the dreams of their families, and the dreams of their friends and the hopes of a nation.
To these athletes, it was beyond belief. Years of hard work went for naught.
I shall get back to this premise later in my article, but I want to pay attention to something that happened at this year‘s Olympiad. You know, it takes years to build respect if you can possibly do it. Over the years, I have had the distinct pleasure of being part, or associated with 5 Olympiads. In that time, I have seen both the good and the bad.
I have had the opportunity to work up close with some of the finest people I have ever known. As well as some of the most opportunistic executives I have ever known. My friend Rene Henry, also a veteran of many Olympiads, has pointed out how the Fat Cats get rich off the sweat and toil of the athletes and as dollars increased, greed has permeated the Halls of Power.
Just look at the fall of FIFA… and that is only the tip of the Ice Berg.
Also, over the years my professional career has seen me plying my wares and working in over 50 nations. This learning experience can never be replaced.
Certainly, not by people who sit at desks, write stories, do research and develop hypotheses without first-hand knowledge. Neither can academics and sociologists who complete study upon study to reach only the conclusions that make up their theses give answers.
I look on these as exercises in futility. It is the man, or woman who has stuck their big toes in the water of life that have the answers.
William Shakespeare once wrote in part during the soliloquy that Marc Antony delivered at Julius Caesar’s burial, “The good is often interred with their bones.” Simply said, that means you can do something good forever, but one misstep and all the good is forgotten. The misstep is what people remember.
Among the knowledge I have acquired in the years of being in both the sports and entertainment fields on foreign soil is that the United States was once respected, but never liked.
Do you remember a movie starring the late Marlon Brando entitled the Ugly American? Unfortunately, whether we, in our patriotism and yes, even our smugness, would ever admit it, among most countries; the United States has never been the most liked.
We were, however, always respected. This respect allowed us to build a great trading nation and overcome dislike. I served in Korea and for a time was stationed in Japan. For quite a while, wherever we walked we were looked on as the enemy, the conqueror to be feared.
Through careful indoctrination, constant effort and guide lines that our military leaders during a peace time transition, were able to infuse us with, we learned how to properly treat a nation that was once our enemy with dignity. It worked.
I learned in great part from the Japanese how to be respectful and appreciate the differences. With my Japanese associates, Tee Kuboki in particular, I was able to meet with success.
According to research, the first Olympic games started back in 776 B.C… however, it was generally accepted that they had already been going on for over 500 years at that time. They were dedicated to the Olympian Gods and were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia.
They continued uninterrupted for nearly 12 centuries until Roman Emperor Theodosius in 393 A.D. enacted a law banning all such “pagan cults”. Thus, this athletic endeavor settling differences on the playing field, rather than the battlefield was outlawed.
It wasn’t until 1500 years later, 1896 to be exact, that King Georgios I of Greece lifted the ban and along with 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the first international competition. In Athens, there were 280 athletes from 13 nations competing in 43 events: track and field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, shooting and tennis. Americans won 9 out of 12 of these events.
The 1896 Olympics featured the first marathon competition. The marathon followed the route run by the Greek Soldier Phidipidies who ran from the site of the battle in Marathon to Athens bringing news of the Greek victory over the Persians.
The next year, 1897, the Boston Marathon was founded and for decades was America’s only Marathon. In addition, it was always free and anyone could enter… the winner’s only prize was a Laurel Wreath following the Greek Olympic tradition. In the 1960’s corporate sponsors put up big prize money. The race requirements changed! Since the potential entrants times are checked for qualifying, plus a fee has to be paid.
Prior to that, everybody who entered was welcomed as a guest in Boston’s home. Our parents always taught us to be respectful when visiting. We also learned that “a man makes money, but money doesn’t make a man”.
The Summer Olympics which costs a fortune to stage, with the exception of L.A. 1984, has never produced a profit for the host city. Yet, the Olympiad which is held every four years, is constantly sought after by cities with hopes it would add prestige to their municipality. It is hoped the end result would cast a favorable light on the city and help bring notoriety and good will.
Any athlete, who represents his, or her country, is expected to carry on with dignity. They are not expected to be rowdy and “spit in the face” of their host. Ryan Lochte and three of his swim teammates did just that. They compounded a minor misdemeanor by making up a falsehood, which brought worldwide attention to the American Team. This was done especially in a country that was facing so many problems and was already being called the worst run Olympics in history.
I started this column talking about President Carter’s misguided Boycott of the 1980 Moscow games. While I created an Olympic week in Washington to help assuage the hurt of our 219 athletes that were going nowhere, I saw how devastated they were.
Thus, when athletes who are privileged to go, have the audacity to undermine the excellent efforts of so many others, to me, it is time for the so-called executives who receive monies out of proportion for what they do, to take stock and somehow penalize the wrong doers.
At these games, the United States team has enjoyed so many outstanding moments. Their Medal total and victories have been off the wall. It is a shame that one foolish act performed in a moment of weakness might overshadow these feats and not shine the light on those who have accomplished them.
“The good is often interred in their bones”.