It started when Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal, that pang that comes over me every four years (actually every two years, but more, for some reason, in the summer games). The competitions begin winding down and now we are watching sequined synchronized swimmers and rhythmic gymnasts. Track and field soon climaxes with the decathlon. The 2008 Olympic games are almost over.
I am grieving another end to what is probably the finest collective expression in our world, an idealistic time when for a couple of weeks we come together to celebrate talent, sportsmanship, and merit-based accomplishment. Together pushing off the harsh headlines with Olympic records and one-one hundredths of a second wins.
That opening extravaganza was both aspirational and inspirational, showing off astounding synchronicity and power. We saw glimpses of a conflicted host country with few blue-sky days offering us its greatest talents and finest abilities. The ending ceremony is usually not as grand, more a nostalgic celebration of records set, and a look forward to 2012 in London. 2012 sounds so odd, so far away, like a sci-fi movie title from 1950.
The end always brings tears to my eyes: the flashbacks of memorable moments, the mix of glitz and sentiment with true emotion. I usually get the feeling I did when camp ended with a heart-felt camp show, and I knew I'd never see some of my friends again, and besides, even if I did we'd be older and things would never be the same and our voices would change and our bodies betray us.
These Olympic moments focus like a laser on different times of our lives. I remember the anger of the Black Power Movement and the defiant track winners with their hands up on the medal stand. And the '84 Olympics in LA, when I was dating my boss and watching the games with him on the couch. The 2000 Olympics when I was so happy with my new husband. The 2004 games, when he was gone.
Where will we all be four years later, besides (hopefully) older? Will Phelps mom be the next Dr. Phil? Will Daria swim again? Will Bolt still bolt like lightning?
So much will happen in our lives, our country, our world. In four years will we still be in Iraq? Will the economy be prospering? Will gas be twice as much or half as much? Will our globe be several degrees warmer? Who will be running for reelection? Will Elisabeth Hasselbeck be anchoring at Fox News? Will I be healthy? Will I find a love? Will I be maintaining the weight I just lost?
Time steadily ticks away, but Olympic games give us a reflective pause in our collective memory. A time-out before we rush back to reality, and a presidential election.
There are precious moments more, so back to the screen. I don't want to miss table tennis on those little tables, or those crazy, beat-up BMX extreme bikers, or Bob Costa's sincere interviews. Or passing the Olympic flag to London.
Or --sigh -- the torch in the Bird's Nest, flickering out.