I have said before that I think the Olympics are the best thing that we do as modern citizens of the world. I tear up when I think about it.
As much money as may change hands during the games, they are not really about money. As much patriotism as is stirred up by the events, it is not really about any individual country. The US and China may win more medals than any other country, but many smaller countries have a much higher medals to population ratio. It is not even really about the athletes, although they are the center of it.
It is about peace. World peace. Nations of the world coming together, not to “work through our differences” or to “hammer out agreements” but to play together.
These are games after all. As much pressure as any individual athlete feels to win in his or her event, in the end there is joy in movement.
I can’t say it better than this: “In Ancient Greece, the Olympic Truce traditionally lasted up to three months, before and during the Games, allowing warring city states to set aside conflict, celebrate togetherness and experience peace inspired by sport. During the Games, a fire was kept burning to symbolize and remind people of the Olympic Truce. The Torch is therefore a living, vulnerable reminder that the true ambition of the Olympics is not victory but peace.” -from the Opening Ceremony site.
There were many things that were not perfect about the opening ceremony, but the cauldron and it’s lighting are about as much perfection as humans are likely to achieve.
The cauldron is made up of 204 copper petals; each one represents one of the competing nations. Each countries’ team brought in their petal as part of the parade of nations. Then they were attached to long pipes in a ring at the center of the arena. The cauldron and petals were designed by Thomas Heatherwick, English designer extraordinaire. He is one of my favorites (favourites?).
Each nation brought their petal, their bit of fire, to the communal cauldron, and together they burn bright. When the games are over, each nation will take their copper petal home with them, as a reminder of these games, and the ideal of peace The Olympics seek.
This is powerful symbolism.