by James V. Schall, S.J. | Catholic World Report
Watching the Olympic Games on NBC has been more than frustrating. The actual events are cleverly isolated midst ad after ad, and chatter after chatter, on the screen. In frustration, I turned to a Spanish station that showed soccer, boxing, and races that were not yet available on NBC, which seems exclusively interested in what Americans do at the Games. No doubt, Ethiopian, German, or Chinese television networks feature their respective athletes.
I suppose that if I were in London, the logistics of getting to where separate events were actually happening would be daunting. No one could see everything as it was happening. And while each event has its own history and fascination, some people will be bored by swimming and others enthused by shooting or the pole vault. But, no doubt, something worth watching can be found in any event.
In the course of two weeks, we see boxing, rowing, equestrian events, track, shooting, jumping, vaulting, diving, swimming, weight-lifting, judo, volley ball, field hockey, basketball, soccer, wrestling, ping pong, gymnastics, badminton, hurdles, and marathons. The only things missing are football (American, Australian, Irish, and Canadian), sailing, baseball, poker, golf, lacrosse, hunting dogs, cock fights, bass fishing, auto racing, tractor pulls, and horse shoes. We see the world's fastest men and women, as well as the strongest, the most agile, and the most enduring. When we finally are allowed un-interruptedly to watch a complete event, it is precisely a spectacle, something to behold, to watch, fascinated.
Aside from the occasional athlete who blesses himself before a race, the heavy garb of some Muslim women, and the "God" when "God Save the Queen" is sung in honor of some British gold medalist, we see or hear no indication of religion, aside from shots of Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's. The opening and closing ceremonies feature no blessings. Perhaps it is just as well. Security is difficult enough as it is.
Yet, the Olympics did have religious origins in their Greek beginnings. Mt. Olympus was the home of the gods.
The idea that men did their best before the gods is not to be ignored. And what could men do? Were there any limits? Is there something finite about us?