Monday Milestone: Amigos Para Siempre

Filed in Other by on July 22, 2013

This Week in History:
1992, July 25
Paralympian Antonio Rebollo ignites the Olympic cauldron in Barcelona, bringing together the world in unity for the first time in a generation.

The Games are supposed to be about unity.

The Olympics, following founding father Pierre Di Coubertin’s original vision, are designed to fuse the world together in harmony through sport. Bring everyone in, once every four years, irrespective of colour, race, gender, religion, whatever. It’s a wonderful notion… in theory

In practice, of course it is much different. Since the modern Olympic movement was re-established in the late nineteenth century greed, politics, ideologies and war, have all derailed such noble sentiments. Wars have cancelled games, there have been deaths, and political boycotts have compromised the integrity of the Games.

By 1992, a generation had passed since the Olympic Games weren’t slighted by some form of political stance, or tragedy, but then, the political landscape was also undergoing unprecedented turbulence. In the past four years, the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold War that divided Germany, physically and politically had come down and Germany had reunited as one country; the USSR had dissolved, and many athletes outside Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were without representation, instead forming the ‘Unified Team’; Apartheid had fallen in South Africa, as Nelson Mandela, had walked free from Robben Island; Yugoslavia was crumbling, with Croatia and Slovenia already split, and Bosnia was embroiled in conflict, and Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait sparking heightening Middle Eastern tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Rather than a crisis the Olympic movement perceived these dramatic political developments as an opportunity, to unite, for the Barcelona Games to usher in a new era, one not dominated by politics, but instead by the sheer purity of friendly, yet competitive sport. It worked and Barcelona became the first Games without boycotts in recent memory.

Taking on “amigos para siempre” or ‘friends for life’ as the mantra of these games, Barcelona took just minutes to ensure its place in Olympic folklore, when Antonio Rebello’s flaming arrow ignited the Games and united the world in awe.

From there the Games of the XXV Olympiad were every bit harmonious. The stadium of all denominations stood as one when British runner Derek Redmond tore his hamstring and his Olympic dream during the back straight of the men’s 400m semi-final, only to summon inexplicable courage, and remarkable resilience, rise to his feet despite the obvious anguish, and half-hop, half-run, to the finish line with his father who jumped onto the track to help his son to the very end. Or symbolically, as the women’s 10,000m race was fought out between Deratu Tulu, a black Ethiopian runner, and Elana Meyer, a white South Africa runner, well ahead of the rest of the field for gold and silver before the two women ran a victory lap, hand in hand, draped in national flags, as well as a flag bearing the Olympic rings.  It was unity.

The fact that it would never have happened four years earlier demonstrates just how far in one Olympiad, the world had come.

Barcelona heralded a new era of the modern Olympic movement. Since then the Games have not been so compromised by the grip of politics again. Borders have been dropped, ideologies shelved with the world uniting, the way di Coubertin had dreamed.

Milestone Five: Highlights of the Barcelona Games

5. High above the Barcelona city, in view of Gaudi’s famous La Sagrada Familia a thirteen year old Chinese diver wins gold, and becomes the youngest Olympic champion of all time.

4. The American “Dream Team” featuring NBA stars such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominated men’s basketball, winning gold

3. Antonio Robello lights the Olympic torch shooting a flaming arrow, at the cauldron in the most stunning fashion in Olympic history. Unfortunately though, he allegedly he over shot the mark, and the torch was ignited by a manual switch.

2. Derek Redmond proved that whilst sport and competition can be learned and defined, courage is something that lies within, limping home with his father helping him, to a standing ovation in the 400m track semi-final after tearing his hamstring. You cannot define courage better than that.

1. Deratu Tulu and Elana Meyer run hand in hand in racial harmony as the black and white athletes embrace their unity around the Barcelona stadium after the women’s 10,000m


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