Great Britain: You Lived Up To Your Name

Here's To The Greatness That's Inside Us All

By Weldon Johnson,
August 16, 2012

Great Britain lived up to its name.

For a country where pessimism is now part of the national consciousness, the Olympics were a resounding success. Not okay, not pretty good, but truly great.

American 400m runner Dee Dee Trotter, who left London with a gold and a bronze medal, said as much but with a little more style. When she was asked what she thought of the London Games after getting gold in the 4 x 400, she said, "London is off the chain and that is putting it mildly."

The Olympics bring out the best in us all.

For two weeks, the consciousness of the host city changes. That unfamiliar guy on the subway next to you is not someone to avoid, but someone to talk to. Contrary to lore, wars do not stop, but athletes and fans come together from all over the world and appreciate one another. That woman next to you in the spray paint and Dutch flag is someone to celebrate, not denigrate. Glasses aren't half empty; they are all half full.

Then there were the volunteers. They made the Games. At the closing ceremonies, London Games Chief Seb Coe thanked the volunteers, and the crowd started cheering. And they kept cheering, cheering, and cheering. Seb finally had to cut them off and continue with the speech.

70,000 people were part of the volunteer effort for the Games. Think about that for a moment. 70,000 people. One volunteer told me she was working twelve-hour shifts, six days on, one day off. Some of them likely never saw an event. But they were glad to contribute to a greater cause.

Faster, higher, stronger. Those are the Olympic ideals, and ultimately each athlete is pursuing their own version of greatness. For some that means a gold medal or a world record; for others it just means taking part and giving their best.

The highlight of the Games for me was very unexpected. Thursday, August 9th, the final morning session of track and field. The only morning session I almost intentionally skipped.

The next thing I knew, the crowd of 80,000 was going bonkers. What the hell was going on? Great Britain was running the first round of the 4 x 400 relay. From the second the gun went off to when the race ended a little over 3 minutes later, the crowd went absolutely nuts for no other reason than they could. How great is that? This moment made me smile and appreciate the greatness of the Olympics.

People from all over the world cheered with gusto for two weeks because they could. Cheering for athletes from their country, from other countries, in sports they knew, and knew nothing about, because they could. I do not think I heard any boos the entire week.

The Olympics are about sport, but more accurately they are about an idealized version of sport. Winning and losing is important at the Olympics, but it is secondary to the Olympic movement. Taking part and giving your best is what it is all about.

Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia definitely did not break the world record in the 800m. However, both her and David Rudisha, who did, will leave the Games and be remembered.

At the closing USOC press conference, a British journalist asked the US athletes if they really thought America was the greatest country on earth. USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky interrupted before an answer was given and pointed out the question was coming from "the gentleman who comes from the country with the word  'Great' in the front of the title."

World record holder in the decathlon Ashton Eaton stepped in with a one-word answer ... "Yes."

The Brits may not fully understand the psyche of the American public, but it is only natural for the greatest all-around athlete on the planet out of seven billion people to think his country is the greatest out of only 216 countries.

If the Brits don't want to try and be the greatest, that's their prerogative. But we can't let them forget what the "G" stands for in Team GB. The Olympic Games remind us there is greatness inside of us all. So here's to the Olympics, London 2012, and to greatness.

Editor's addition: We just wish all the athletes realized what the Olympics are truly all about. We know you often need a narrow, self-absorbed focus to make the Olympics, but the way the gymnasts sometimes pat each other on the back with zero real emotion or the way the women 1,500 runners ignored Morgan Uceny made them out to be barely human.

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