There is something about the Olympic Games which set them apart from any other sport event. The scale in terms of events and number of athletes; the triumphs and heartbreaks; the potential of human performance.
The dedication of the athletes is beyond anything I can imagine. Their lives are subordinated to the goal of running just a little faster, jumping just a little higher or adding just a greater level of difficulty to the gymnastics routine. The difference between winning the gold medal and capitalizing (deservedly) from it and ending up as number 4 in the race and never heard from again can be as little as 1/10th of a second. I don’t condone but I understand why the temptation to taking performance enhancing drugs is very strong.
At the same time, for every Olympic event there is a perfect body type. I was struck by the difference in physique between the 50 m freestyle races and all the other distances. Those swimmers were specialists in that one race and did not compete in any of the others. Michael Phelps certainly achieved his superhuman performances because of willpower and skill but also because of genetics which endowed him with a body of unusual proportions which happen to be perfect for swimming.
I had a wooden plank in my studio during the Olympics which became my surrogate for a balance beam. With the surface ½ inch off the ground, it seemed a great way to get perspective without taking any risk. I tried to spin on it and keep my balance – well, no. Then I tried to jump up, not a split, just a little hop. And that was all it was. My feet may have left the board 1/8 of an inch. And it had nothing to do with the fact that I am, ahem, well out of the Olympic age range.
I love how the Olympic Games bring the world together for 2 weeks every 4 years and help bring down walls.