In a matter of hours, 13 hours, 07 and 26 seconds minutes to be precise - the 2012 OLYMPIC Games will commence in London. The moment has almost arrived - let the games begin! In true British style, the record-breaking sunshine of previous days - Mother Nature's spotlight on the Olympic torch as it made its way through the streets of London in its final approach - has been swallowed up by cloud. Enter stage right!
As excitement mounts across the UK and world, excitement that continues to take people by surprise, the power of pride once again takes centre stage. Years and years and years of questions, debate, critique and complaint are set aside as the spirit of the moment eclipses the metrics...
It is a natural phenomena. As is always the case with major events, debates unfold around the value of the games - the earnings vs the costs, the projects vs other priorities, the pomp vs the purpose. Why here? Why now? Years of economic impact studies unfold in parallel to development designs. The business case of the games becomes a shield, protecting the team tasked with making the event happen from the attacks.
And then something happens, something completely invisible to the naked eye yet concrete in feeling. It causes even the most hardened of critics to fight the formation of tears when hearing the Olympics anthem fill the air as the torch criss-crosses the streets, waterways, and winding country roads of the host nation. It turns the drabbest of dressers into a bright, bold expression of patriotic colours. It brings complete strangers together in spontaneous embraces when one of their makes their flag, their nation, their people, proud.
National spirit is most powerfully felt, and best celebrated, at major events. The sight of a sea of colour, faces bonded by shared pride and identity, cannot but cause a smile to break on the face of admirerers...and concern on the faces of competitors. The sentiment may, for some, seem simplistic, short-term. Its value, however, goes far beyond the short term spike in retail sales, media coverage, goodwill.
As demonstrated in the city of London over the past 15 months, major events, be they sport, culture, religious, traditions or other, have the ability to unite the hearts and minds of nationals, and nations, beyond all borders, calculations and expectations.
It's all about pride - the passionate heart of the flame.
Pride is to nations what confidence is to investors: it takes turns 'maybe, just maybe' into 'just watch us!'
At a time when the world's spirit feels bruised from relentless acts of violence and economic ache, the sense of alone-ness growing with little sign of relief, the sight of athletes standing tall in national colours can spark feelings of connection, confidence and compassion. Olympic heroes were not just those taking home medals - they are those able to make the journey as reflections of the heroic quests of their home countries, as showcased by CNN in "Athletes of the Arab Spring" http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/18/sport/olympics-2012-arab-spring-aiming-gold/index.html
At the same time, national pride turns moments of individual wrongdoing into far-reaching shame. Olympians being sent home for drug test failures or racist social media messaging. The colours have been stained. History has already judged these athletes once honoured with wearing the colours of their flags as now undeserving of representing their people's hopes and dreams.
As the Olympic Games unfold, may the threads of the flags of all nations join together to weave a stronger, more striking canvas of the colour, connection and conscience.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2012