Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cool Running, Mango Betty and the Lightning Bolt

Tonight, I am back in Olympic Park for session ATO4: in Olympic speak that's the fourth presentation of Athletics at these games -- always on the second day of the athletic discipline which comes halfway through the games.

To a lover of Olympic running events - AT04, at most Olympic Games, means "the race" to determine the fastest person in the world. I love running and over the years AT04 is a ticket to covet. I had to sell my soul to get the night off - but it was well worth it.

And tonight - that race would take place at the Beijing National Stadium - the 500 million dollar architectural wonder that has been colloquially dubbed "the Bird's Nest".

People came from far and wide - all on a mission to see the world's fastest man.

The Olympic torch glowed through the roof of this architectural curiosity.

Ahh, runners -- is there anything more beautiful than the way the human body moves at full speed?
Grace and grit personified.

I stood for the National Anthem of Ethiopia - not something I do often. Ok, I've never stood for the National Anthem of Ethiopia. But I was happy to do it tonight - they have beautiful runners and a beautiful anthem befitting a billion people standing in living rooms around the world.

And then it was time for THE race. The Mens 100m final that often determines the fastest person in the world. The tension was palpable. 80,000 people in the stadium holding their breath. While most of the line-up is focused and concentrating, Usain Bolt, third from the left, launches his trademark imaginary "bolt" of lightning into the air.

And there he is, the man who would be king - Jamaica's Usain "lightning" Bolt. Moment's later Bolt would smash his own World Record to become, yet again, the fastest man in the world at 9.69 seconds.

I am 5000 miles away from home, sitting in a stadium of 80,000 people from every corner of the world who have come to witness sports history - and who do I end up with? Marie, aka Mango Betty, writer of the blog The Deep End of the Gene Pool. Marie is also a featured writer on the blogs Wanderlust and Lipstick and Not My Tribe. She's one of my favorite bloggers out there in blogland. Isn't she gorgeous! Not to mention a gifted writer, fantastic mother, keen intellect and, most importantly tonight, a fellow connoisseur of fine running. Who better to spend the evening with drinking eighty-cent Chinese beer and eating bad rice crackers in a world where "take me out to the ballpark" means fish sausages to go.

I love a world where two virtual friends, bloggers from the same roll, end up meeting in a building that looks like a bird's nest 5000 miles from home. I love a world where I get to stand for the Ethiopian National Anthem. I love a world where beer is less than a dollar. And I love a world where perception is shattered by reality. I am nurturing a soft spot for this place in the world I find myself tonight.

One world, one dream. The Olympic Games experience is truly magical -- its the one time the whole world puts asides its various differences and comes together to celebrate a common cause.

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