Monday, August 8, 2016

Now That Was a Party! Glad You Could Join Us



Now That Was a Party! Glad You Could Join Us

Well, it's here, and it's happened.
The Olympic Games they said would never take place are taking place.
The Olympics they said couldn't be held are being held.
The Olympics they said would drown in politics, strangle in traffic are floating and breathing.
The Olympics they said would tap the taxpayers out of billions are paying their way.
The Olympics everyone said they were going out of town to escape are doing nicely without them.
The Olympics the Soviets tried to strangle in their crib are crawling and walking and talking.
The Olympics they said were too commercial are being done with as much taste as a High Mass.
The Olympics they said would be the "Wall Street Olympics" turn out to be more democratic than the Wehrmacht Olympics (1936), the Red Army Olympics (1980) or anything put on by the Emperor of Japan, the king of Sweden or the royal family of Greece.
The Olympics every two-bit politician with an election coming up tried to block now find these same politicians standing with their hats over their hearts, tears in their eyes, wishing they could take credit.
The Olympics they said would be the "Mickey Mouse Olympics" have more countries (140) than ever and more world records.
The Olympics this town gave when it was small, broke, unknown but brave and daring are now being given by a town that's big, rich, famous but grown timid and frightened and almost afraid to give a lousy party for itself, and the world — for which it has furnished dreams for more than half a century.
The Olympics that war-torn London was able up give on tracks made of blitz rubble, the Olympics that plucky little Finland gave, heroic Mexico, daring Melbourne, penitential Munich, glorious Rome, gallant Montreal and mighty Moscow are finally being given by the country once known as the most hospitable on earth — and it's about time.
The Olympics no one wanted have a city festooned with flags, flowers on lamp posts, banners on buses, singing in the streets, and music in the heart, a city awash with the costumes and customs of every culture on the planet and the envy of every capital on it.
The Olympics they said were going to be the Hollywood Olympics turned out to be the American Olympics. Hollywood is America, and vice versa.
The Olympics they mocked, jeered, and tried to throw out the window have showed up shining and gay and smiling, anyway.
The Olympics they said would be too hot, too smoggy, too unhealthful, too crowded, too inconvenient are a gas instead.
The Olympics they said would overcrowd the inns have suites for sale.
We're having a party; what's wrong with that? It's our turn, so grab a flag, trade a button, hoist a toast. We only get one of these things once to a lifetime, every 52 years; so we better get with it. The party-poopers will be out in force in 2036, too. Next time, they may win.
The world paraded before our doors in the Opening Ceremony, proud row of the fittest people on this earth. Our youth. Our hope. The world's real wealth. Specimens we would all like to be, should be. Joyous in their youth, gladdened in their strength.
Who could look at an Olympic Opening Ceremony and grouse about traffic? Gripe about cost? Are an Olympics a celebration for a Scrooge, a Swiss banker, a warlord, a misanthrope, a cynic, a miser, a hermit? The Olympics are a vision. They sing to the old of what might have been to the young of what can be. That's their promise. They make the world a family for a fortnight. They're a teacher. They show us what we ought to be, could be.
An Opening Ceremony is not the start of the Olympics, it's the culmination. It makes the Olympic statement. It's a valentine to tomorrow. Tomorrow will be all right. Tomorrow is in good hands.
The Olympics are the politics of joy. Or should be. The Olympics are the legacy of a gallant old Frenchman, a baron by birth but a common man by choice who wanted to bring the world brotherhood, to replace the comradery of war with the bonds of friendly competition. He kept bouncing into hardheaded councils of selfish politics, too. But his dream persevered. There are always men who believe in it, and may history salute them, too.
De Coubertin would have rejoiced Saturday, a fete to gladden a Gallic soul.
An Opening Ceremony is more than just 84 pianos or 76 trombones, more than Busby Berkeley, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, or even Beethoven or John Philip Sousa. It's not a show, it's not Abie's Irish Rose or Gilbert and Sullivan or even Aida. It's a rite as ancient as Greece. It's also a 10-handkerchief production, as emotional as an aria, as sentimental as a wedding cake.
The athletes are the star of this extravaganza. They're the plot, the lyrics, the marquee value, the lump in the throat. No playwright, librettist could hoke up the moment when 92,655 throats roared salute to countries that have been our enemy too long, like China, and countries that are our friends in the camp of the enemy, like Romania, which defied the disapproval of the masters of the Kremlin to march here, and the Yugoslavs, who march to their own drummer, too. An Olympic parade is a lesson not only in geography but history.
So, welcome, world and especially China, Romania and our pals the Yugos. Let the Games begin, the revels start. Let our world play together for a change. If it's costly, wrong, difficult — well, so was the Boston Tea Party.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

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