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Why you should bother with the Olympic Games

The Olympics is more than just athletes competing each other. It's also about pushing boundaries and doing the unthinkable.

Dipa Karmakar
Dipa Karmarkar has battled all odds to make it to the Olympics

Trivia alert: A feint is a fencing attack made with the purpose of provoking a reaction.

A self-proclaimed opinion maker recently tweeted that the Olympics was a waste of money and opportunity. This was a tweet from the same person who also posted about why bother with the Olympics. On this evidence alone, this individual would have made a good fencer dealing largely in feints and flicks. She may even have won a medal or two, given her steely determination of not being prone to selfies, photo ops and distracting opinions. Cough. Cough.

Medal chances apart, what caught my eye in the second tweet was the word ‘opportunity’. Now, being the hopelessly romantic and disturbingly positive middle-aged man that I am, opportunity, is what the Olympics – with the bar of human achievement set to superhuman levels – stands for. Opportunity.  

Cliché alert: Not only for each Olympian to take down their own demons but for you and for me.

The fan. From the poster in bedroom fanatic to the removable Indian flag paint on face. An opportunity to be inspired.

Take the soldier Dattu Baban Bhokanal. Digging for an Olympic medal, digging wells in his drought devastated village four years ago. I repeat. Digging not for “page three save the humanity selfie”, but for water. 

Dattu attempts universal recognition while his mother battles brain injury in hospital unable to recognize her now famous son, accused of wasting money and opportunity.          

Waste of opportunity? For whom? A nation, Dattu or us?

Well, it will be a chance wasted if we – the sports fans – dealing with life and in many cases, the loss of our dreams, ignore to learn from a man rowing against currents made of more than simply the waters of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. A man who once dug for water, now violently taking it apart one oar at a time.

An inspiration to be thankful for what we have and to make the most of our own circumstances.

Take Dipa Karmarkar. A crazy little package of pure RDX, chasing storms in her head and risking life and limb every time she puts her head down and charges kamikaze style at the vault. Wonder what goes on in her head? A poetic war cry like Agnipath or something simple and straightforward like, “ here we go again”?

What a chance it is to introduce your child to this kid. From a state long forgotten, in a nation with no gymnastic memory, taking on human products of military-styled programs that insert 5-year-olds one end and spit out robot champions the other.  

Son, Daughter - should you rather chase Pokemons or this unforgettable moment of pure glory?

Truth be told, the medal which she will win on the 14th of August or perhaps miss out on by hundredth of a point or so, who cares - will be hers and hers alone.  A waste of opportunity? For whom?

To us, the opportunity is in selfishly making the most of Dipa by learning how she, her father, her coach and her support ecosystem sacrificed everything, made the most of invisible chances, smartly looked for openings and then broke through risking not only everything in life but life itself.

What a waste of time and opportunity if we can’t get our kids together, point at her on the television and tell them her story. One word at a time. Come here. Sit down. You think things are impossible? This is Dipa. She is more Avenger than the Black Widow. She kicks ass for a living. She does not diss superheroes on Twitter.

Office politics bringing you down?

Take Narsingh Pancham Yadav. Wrestling self-doubt, wrestling courts, wrestling great warriors wearing the same colors that he wears, and still making it through. Head high, chest out, ancient invisible strength inside.

Take Abhinav Bindra. A perfect template of how to move from riches to true greatness. With humility, grace and a big heart to help youngsters. Take Tintu Lukka, Jwala Gutta, Shiva Thapa, Chain Singh. Dip your hand in a bowl of chits containing the names of each of India’s Olympians and 118 out 118 times you will pick a chit with the name of a rebel working late into the darkest of nights for a few elusive seconds on a morning years away.

Writing their own story of sacrifice, of strength of character, of bat crazy determination for the lightest of ornaments to sling around your neck. Not a story of 140 cynical characters on someone’s greatest moment in life.

I claimed to be a positive middle-aged man. So tweets and feints apart, we do have so much to learn from every sportsman. Olympics – the greatest organized challenge outside of war, for the human spirit. The toughest school for the athlete and for the fan.

The athlete, by the simple act of having qualified for it, has already passed with distinction. They have won at life, and the medals they win or miss out on is their burden to carry. They fought the war. They live with the scars. Not us. We just enjoy the freedom and joy their accomplishments bring. We just feel slight disappointment, and move on to the next topic to comment and tweet about every time they fail.

And if we are one of those with long memories, once every four years we lament about PT Usha, Milkha Singh and Abhinav Bindra. Of missing out, of Indians not having the killer instinct. Of the missing gyms, and tracks and misplaced ammunition. The Government. Can’t it see how important it is to us?

The smart thing to do – our Produnova if you must – is to turn our expectations from these sportsmen into expectations from ourselves.

To be better entrepreneurs, scientists, writers, workers, or whatever is our Olympic event in life. To plan. To work hard. To sleep less. To sacrifice like only a few others before.

To selfishly learn what our largely mediocre lives never teach us from the lives of the Dattus, the Bindras, and everyone who has earned the right to have those five rings embroidered on the top of their tracksuit.

That is medal enough. That is not a wasted opportunity. That is the answer to “why do we even bother with the Olympics”.

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