The Soul of the Olympics

The London Games showcased the very best of us.

Comments: 86

  1. It's interesting that even in a competition of elite athletes, sports still comes across as the great equalizer in a way, how it helps to relax all sorts of boundaries, including social, personal, and national.

  2. The material world is evanescent, the intangible bonds are eternal.

  3. With all the visible signs of crass commercialism, hate, jealousy, accusations-counter accusations, triumph and defeat, ecstasy and frustration, the Olympics, every four years, remind and reiterate the message to never succumb to gloom and failure in life. For, life itself is a play ground inviting all to play with zeal and fair competition, but rewarding those only who, know how to interchange competition with cooperation when, demanded by the needy fellow beings.

  4. Thank you! The Olympics were amazing and uplifting. I enjoyed the "sappy" stories. I particularly enjoyed the mini-vacation from political reporting, commentary and ads. Now, talk about sappy. . .

  5. Frank,

    I hope you'll forgive me for adding a few more items to your great list of memories. How about Andy Murray's triumph on centre court, after so many years or the amazing abilities of Wu Minxai and Chen Roulin to slip into the water at the end of each dive, leaving barely a splish...(and definitely no splash)-all sport, all art. And despite their agreed upon flaws..NBC's full channel of soccer, deliciously replayed to the point of elegant absurdity, reminded us that football is truly better left to hips and toes, no pads required. Beyond the sport, there was, undoubtedly the moment that transcended 50 years of British art, Paul McCartney's rendition of 'The End.' Baby boomers, we can all die happy, now!

    And yes,Frank, in spite of the ridiculous way we were required to play along that we 'didn't know' who was going to win, I must say, this old gal found an immense relief in knowing that those delightful little gymnasts weren't really about to bust their noggins on that vicious balance beam-hats off to modern technology for that improvement!

    Last but not least, I'll add that in this age of so many choices, so many ways to get the facts, so much echo and so much replay, we have witnessed two weeks to come home from work, flip on the tube, and only watch three stations(remember those days?), all focused on one town, full of 20 year old's who look so promising, fresh, and friendly. Our future is safe with them.

  6. I agree with this column, and feel there is an underlying magnificence to the Olympics in spite of the commercialism and other degenerative factors. But I also agree that the NBC coverage has been awful. Hours and hours of field hockey, water polo, pairs diving and countless sports I don't even know the name of --- which is fine in itself --- but cursory attention to Track and Field, gymnastics, and other core Olympic events . Except, of course, a bit of extra vacuous verbiage where the US or some media star is involved. There was one evening where they showed little of the current gymnastics competition but, instead, ran a lengthy piece from some past Olympics that you couldn't even hear the narration or interviews because the canned music was mixed way too high. And I've some, but far fewer, of those background portraits that personalize the athletes and put the competition in context.

    I will give them credit for showing more of the opening ceremony than of their own talking heads like they usually do, or at least used to before they caught on.

  7. I'm pretty sappy about the Olympics. Seeing the Olympics in Athens begin with the torch being run into the stadium in Athens was an inspiration to excellence .for me.
    That's why I don't watch NBC. I like the Times data and stories, but the Olympics is cheapened by the ad driven narrative by Costas.. I have a link to the ones I want to see in real-time, and watch the playbacks, muted, for the other ones.

    I notice you don't mention Mike Phelps. Somehow this great athlete that every other country wishes were on their teams, whose record over three games is so amazing.
    is chopped liver? Is it that people just don't get swimming? Or is the narrative not maudlin enough? Jealousy? Suspicion? Too good? What? I myself can't praise him enough for his talent and dedication. He has transformed the sport.

    That said, It was wonderful to see Missy and her teammate win. And Gabby, what a sweetheart! and what a gymnast! She is an inspiration. I can't wait to see her again on the podium in the next Olympics.

    It's reenergizing to take time out from this long and worrisome campaign and just see some non-contact, non-gladiatorial sports. Hats off to all the athletes. from all the countries, who work so hard and so inspire us.

  8. Actually he did mention Phelps! Sixth paragraph.

  9. Bruni lauded Phelps in this piece. Re-read it.

  10. I agree with you, Mr. Bruni -- these Olympic Games have been a very positive experience for the world community. And, in my opinion, it has been a very positive use of television and the Internet.

  11. I agree with almost everything that was written here. These Olympics were special alright. I would have liked more coverage of other international stars, and NBC showing more of boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting than diving or beach volleyball.

    Overall, not bad, Londoners.

  12. Thank you for putting into words a beautiful sentiment. These were fabulous Olympic Games. I loved and rooted for all the athletes you mentioned, and especially today, I cheered for the Gold medal winning Mexican Team. London 2012, what an amazing ride!

  13. As a dual citizen of the US and UK, I've had so much to celebrate -- from training mates Mo Farah and Galen Rupp finishing first and second in the men's 10K to the spectacular performances of the American women's soccer team captained by Abby Wambach. What a fabulous Games it has been.

  14. Well done. Mitt Romney showed his "class" by questioning whether the Brits could put on a successful Olympics. They did and revealed Romney to be a minor leaguer without much vision.

  15. The Olympics; a spectacular spectacle, and mostly enjoyable, and this is
    a very nice tribute to all the efforts put forth by the participants.
    Yes, NBC was very silly, and all the other news stations with their "spoiler alerts,"annoying, and the too, too frequent dumb commercials set my teeth on edge. But in the end it was all worth it to see these young althletes try to do their best following years of dogged preparation.

  16. Favorite Olympic moment so far? After the middle weight women's boxing final, in which Claressa Shields pretty well beat up her 33 year old Russian opponent. They're standing in the ring after the medals were given, and the Russain woman, Nadezda Torlopova, has her arm around Shields, hugging her with wonderful maternal affection. She wouldn't let her go. That's what the Olympics are all about, to me.

  17. "the middle wieght women's boxing final". That's exactly what's wrong with the Olympics and those who whoop over them. Near junk sports played by semi-pros. How many local track meets and swimming meets will be packed this week?

    To all those fans who will now miss the "spectacle", they can soon revert to the only less entertaining but even more over-publicized non-events; the political conventions.

  18. Whether by design or happenstance, it is interesting to note that all the sports cited in this piece will soon return to relative obscurity for another four years, as the networks and ESPN instead turn their cameras on football, baseball, basketball, etc.

    But once every four years, for two weeks or so, heroic performances are given attention. Praise be for their dedication and devotion to their sports. And to their many competitors back home, who helped push them to these heights.

  19. Yes, I was struck by the Republic of Korea archery gold medalist, Oh Jin-hyek, and his fellow medal winners from Japan and China smiling, joking with and embracing each other at the end of the competition, something we haven't seen the political leaders of their nations do terribly often the last century. Bravo.

  20. Totally agree. While NBC's coverage has been disappointing, we should focus on all the inspirational stories from the past two weeks. And there have been many great stories, far too many to fit into one column.

  21. The Olympics of 2012 were very special this time with the records that were broken, the challenges overcome like that of Oscar Pistorius et al and the number of women achieving medals.
    For every athlete competing in London, I thought of the commitment of parents, spouses, guardians who gave so selflessly with time and support over many years.
    Tomorrow, I'll feel a bit sad as these Olympics close but also a sense of joy for the athlietes who were there in the UK for their countries.

    Well done London!

  22. Worthy piece extolling the incredible lifetime efforts of individuals, not states, to push themselves to do the impossible; and, briefly, succeed. Stories like the ones you summarized will inspire millions of other individuals in their own lives to go for the gold -- and, even when they miss, create lives of distinction based on their efforts.

    But while individual efforts and success (and failure) is the main story at Olympiads, we also shouldn't lose sight that states participated in these games, too; and what the ancient meaning of the Olympics really is: that we can acknowledge that we are a competitive species, and compete; but not necessarily kill one another while doing it.

  23. Beautiful stuff. I've been up until 1:30 in the morning for two weeks, watching replays, being touched deeply by what I've seen. At the Olympics, we get to see people "judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character" as it manifests in their commitment to excellence and their achievements as athletes. Human beings at their best, and often at their humble best, acknowledging those who helped them along the way. And when the broadcasters' foolishness or the odd athlete's self-centeredness is too obnoxious, there's always fast forward...

  24. Gabby Douglas was sent to "a town where a black girl was bound to stand out"? While Iowa as a whole may be overwhelmingly white, a black girl would hardly "stand out" in a city with significant minority populations of all sorts, including Asians, Hispanics and large numbers of African-Americans who have lived here for generations. The only thing that made Ms. Douglas "stand out" in Des Moines were the same things that made her colleague and Olympic predecessor Shawn Johnson "stand out": a preternatural ability to defy gravity with grace, together with a million-dollar personality. I would submit that would make either of these gifted young women "stand out" anywhere, including New York or London. And it does.

  25. You deserve a medal for this article Mr. Bruni. My thanks. The Olympic fortnight has inspired the better part of humanity. I delighted in the spectacle of such multi-cultural and multi-racial displays of national pride coinsiding with heart warming gestures of sportsmanship and humanity from inspired and determined young people.

    The last 4 years of social-fracturing financial greed and economic misery together with the violence and mud-slinging of the recent months has tortured my soul and made me doubt. The Olympics this year left me feeling that "Yes we can!"

  26. Thank you for writing this piece. London did a fantastic job of hosting these Olympics under the message of athletic potential and multiculturalism. The range of athletes, especially as you mentioned the female competitors, from all nations, was uplifting, as were the displays of athletic respect. Bravo!

  27. Wunnerful, wunnerful. Too bad they couldn't see fit to set aside a few seconds to honor the memory of the twelve Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Unfortunately that is also part of the (lack of) soul of the Olympics.

  28. Why should they? The Olympics are about the future, not the dreadful past. Yes the victims should be recognized...and they were. However, the games are about today's athletes not long dead agonies.

  29. Mr. Bruni,

    You wrote: "the Olympics have affirmed that human potential is just about infinite and that the human soul is good. "

    The IOC also reminded us that Israelis are second class citizens in their world view. The erection of a wall between the Israeli team and the Lebanese judo team at Lebanese insistence was despicable. Amazing how at the same moment a Iranian athlete learned he would be competing with an Israeli, he suddenly became ill and withdrew from the games.

    That the IOC refused to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich murders _that happened TO Israelis AT the Olympics IN the Olympic village because some Arab states said they would withdraw was another indication that some athletes are more equal than others.

    Do you see that sort of behavior directed at any other country?

    Those actions certainly shed a new light on the "soul" of the Olympics.

  30. "For the first time, every national team included at least one woman..."

    The title you've chosen, "The Soul of the Olympics" is as appropriate as your depth of appreciation for the women in the London Olympics 2012. I too have profoundly appreciated the soul-reaching contributions particularly from women to this international scene of sports. Among many other shinning moments, Black is Beautiful as it was on tracks, and Lady Russia has ever redefined grace and elegance on rhythmic gymnastics. In a way, it's very historical as much as the domination of the Jamaican sprinters. Thank you for saying it in so many beautiful ways, as we all should be so proud.

  31. Actually, there are three NOCs who have no women in their athlete delegation: Barbados, Nauru, and St Kitts & Nevis. All three have sent women before - but this Games can not claim to be the first with a woman from each NOC. Maybe in 2016.

  32. Thanks for reminding me how inspirational these games can be. All of your examples are great. But maybe it's because I'm seventy now that I keep recalling games past and some of my heroes from those games. Here are just a few quick examples: From games I watched, Florence Griffith-Joyner (FloJo), Marry Lou Retton, Carl Lewis (he went to the same university as I did), Greg Louganis (whom I once heard refer to himself as "the toughest 'sissy' on the block," which made me admire him even more--for his courage and his sense of humor). And from years before I was even born, like Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, and "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (from a little Texas town near where I now live). And I've left out so many others. Thanks again for helping to boost my spirits today.

  33. He who wins, of a sudden, some noble prize
    In the rich years of youth
    Is raised high with hope; his manhood takes wings;
    He has in his heart what is better than wealth.
    But brief is the season of man's delight.
    Soon it falls to the ground; some dire decision uproots it.
    --Thing of a day! such is man; a shadow in a dream.
    Yet when god-given splendour visits him
    A bright radiance plays over him, and how sweet is life!

    --Pindar, fragment of an ode celebrating an athletic triumph, fifth century B.C.E., trans. H.D.F. Kitto

  34. Thank you Frank for small diversions then usual binge of politics of ideological divide, polarization and all else that ails this nation.

    I too applaud some of the athletes, and it is decent of you to mention others then our own men and women. You not a track and field person or would not have left out the 23 year old David Rudisha Masai kid , helped by an Irish Catholic School Master in Kenya. Who set a new 800 meter world record.

    I too am an ex Olympian, and see this shindig from a different prospective then what it used to be as compared to what it is now. To the end that politics, commercialism , greed and the lure of money, endorsements. IOC profits, the hierarchy living high on the hog, The not for profit Olympic Organization making the logo a trademark & oppressing others who for long may have the Olympic in their businesses, like Olympic Cafe. Legally forced to change the name of close down. The irk of Lord Coe who even pounced on a Pub owner who had Olympic Sign on the toilet door or a public toilet with thus five circus rings.

    Far worst that this whole commercial facade was finances by the Gulf Arabs and for them to loose some $20 billion is peanuts considering their oil revenues. And yet the British are calling it a success . Their medal haul and jubilation may it is, but for two weeks Central London has been a ghost town. No body venturing out to restaurants, retail shops, no tourists. But Arabs will gain by owning 15% more of London.

  35. I agree with your comments completely Mr. Bruni. I too have been sucked in, mesmerized and inspired.

    I have also had the joy of watching the games in the Netherlands which means I watch live, commercial-free coverage on BBC, as well as Dutch, Belgian and German public networks. No commercial riddled NBC glitz required. If only PBS could be awarded coverage in the future.

    I would however add that money does indeed determine medals in most of the sports. A dream like Gabby Douglas' cost "someone" quite a lot of money and time. Swimming pools, gymnastics equipment, track fields, sports therapists, coaches, racing bikes, uniforms, transportation, etc., cost enormous amounts of money $$$. Talent is not developed on dream alone. The actual cost for USA medals is huge! Though well worth the investment,

    Not every kid with a dream, nor every country with a talent has a chance at a medal. Yet.... Maybe the US and China could consider sports funding a category for foreign aide.

  36. An inspiring olympic perspective on a gathering of world-wide leaders. Thank you.

  37. @ Mary Sommerfeldt. Thank you. THEY are the world leaders, not politicians. Thank you.

  38. I am so proud of the athletes and their achievements - it is indeed good to see young people involved in such healthy pursuits and accomplishments and to acknowledge it all on the world stage.

    What takes away from free-flowing joy at it all, is the IOC's refusal to give tribute to athletes that were slaughtered at the Olympics 40 years ago. Surely that is an anniversary to acknowledge and show respect to them and their families. Instead it was left to Gold medal winner Aly Raisman to speak up and give tribute.

    It is an insult to those dead to erase them from history in this cold way, and the disrespect to these lost athletes leaves a corner of unsupported grief in the midst of what might have been unmitigated joy.

  39. Sadly there are too many Americans here in Michigan who seem not to be aware that the Olympics is even happening; over the past week I've been at 3 different 'sports' bars where there was everything on but the Olympics; golf, baseball, little-league, Fox news, CNN, but no Olympics.

  40. things to remember...the path of sacrifice for most olympic athetes is subsidized...the beach volley ball women have held each other above the clamour...missy franklin's choice of her community, and her potential college community, over personal profit...even the retro enthusiasm for team and country of the big league pros...are all forms of social engagement, of the wider view of sport, competition and acheivement as expression of human values higher that the bottom line...they have as you suggest "something to teach us all" if we can manage the attention span and do the homework.

  41. Excellent piece and a guide to the value of and true spirit of the Olympics.

    We can all take a measure of pride in what these events have demonstrated of value in the human spirit and endeavor.

    We can all be proud of the standing ovation to competitors who did not make it to the podiums by the crowds in the stands. They show the spirit all of us have inside and represent why we are all in this together.

    More than points and medals the Olympics have the possibility to show us all what the human spirit can accomplish when focused on a goal, supported by others and willing to push our limits beyond what our mind and body tells us we can endure.

    If we could only hold that same spirit from the crowds applauding the last place finisher and the first place finisher shaking hands with and congratulating those who finished behind, men being proud and awed at the accomplishments of women, Americans appreciating a North Korean or Irani performance during these days, we will all be the better for it and who knows, maybe the hope of those who are still in training of one day reaching the next Games will spillover onto us and the world will not seem to be so treacherous or lost in the hatred we see and hear all around us.

    The Olympic flame is alive in all of us, we just have to let it take the stage in our daily lives as these Games have occupied in these past two weeks.

    If we do that we will all be closer to being "Champions" in the greatest race of all-*-- The Human Race!

  42. Thank you for devoting your column to the goodness in humans and asking us to savor a grand display of it.

  43. Your article is excellent, inspiring and uplifting.

    Thanks for reminding us that beneath the distractions and glitter of the modern-day Olympics what really matters is the determination to do one’s best and the heart of gold that makes it happen.

    Jesse Owens, one of our greatest Olympians, said it best, “The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.”

    The man who helped revive the Olympics in 1894 said it another way, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

    Coach Herb Brooks, the quintessential Olympic coach said it in a miraculous way in 1980, “Impossible is just a degree of difficulty.”

    Tony Mussari, Sr.
    The Face of America Project

  44. The best of us? The Lebanese judo team required that a barrier be constructed to separate them from the Israeli athletes. The IOC refused to grant a minute of silence to the memory of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Olympic games. The games are good entertainment but have little impact on peace and brotherhood.

  45. The true Olympic Gold goes to the team at JPL who, for a fraction of the cost of the Olympics gave the world a landing on Mars that will give and inspire not just every four years, but for decades to come.

  46. yes indeed I'm with you on that -but- also in the Olympic spirit its fair to mention --that other nations were involved in this & other efforts too--and have contributed many skilled folks to Americas space race efforts--ever since it began!

  47. Beautiful article; no more need be said.

  48. The Olympics can move us on so many levels. For some viewers an event may represent the mastery of one individual or team over another. I see every event as mastery over one's own nerves, self-doubts and pain.

  49. Frank Bruni, you are a wonderful writer and you write lovely, powerful columns all the time. Thank you.

  50. Great essay Frank, thanks. Really captured the range of emotions we are all feeing these last two weeks. I hope I can hang on to the inspirations and the lessons these amazing athletes, coaches, and families provided for us all.

  51. All in all, a beautiful Olympics. England, you did good!

  52. Nice comment & thank you-directed I am sure not just to England's part of the U.K. -and on that score-(being a Welsh-born US citizen) ) please allow me to add a geographic/political correction for the benefit of so many well-meaning folks 'this side of the pond' who don't quite understand the England/ Britain/UK arrangement.'
    England was -once upon a time- a totally separate & sovereign nation in its own right -& there were many cross-border wars between forces under English, Scottish & Welsh sovereigns. London eventually won a uniting peace treaty & became a sovereign union of 3 countries that formed Great Britain -comprising England, Scotland & Wales. Following hard-won independence from G.B. for much of Ireland -it's predominantly Protestant northern counties became Northern Ireland & that in turn formed a new sovereign nation under the (seldom heard) complete title of 'The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland' -or UK for short. For purposes of these Games it has been officially represented as Great Britain (only) --but in actual fact -by having some N.Ireland athletes involved -being listed as the U.K. would be have been more accurate.

  53. Beautifully written. You showcased those watched and cheered on by so many TV viewers. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Thanks for expressing the accomplishments of our young people so nicely.

  54. The Olympics are a joke. Woman's boxing, volley ball, fencing,
    are all tiny sports with little interest. And the media falls in line
    with this nonsense. The media has not learned from history,
    nor remembered it. Not a word about how Hitler cleaned up
    Germany for 1936, and hardly any mention of the 1972
    Munich murders.

  55. Sadly for you, time does not march on. The Olympics are an inspiration. Every four years we the next generation shows the world what hard work, determination and good dose of talent can bring. The Olympics aren't a joke. They're least for a couple of weeks.

  56. What is with people who can only look at the negatives? What joy is there in putting down someone else's pleasure?

    Some of the events may be in "tiny sports with little interest" to you perhaps...but for some individuals that "tiny sport' might be the biggest thing in their life. Maybe that "tiny sport" is what got them focussed on life and helped them to achieve more than just success in sport. Maybe they've inspired others.

    Maybe it's time for people to be a little more positive.

  57. Congratulations, Frank Bruni, for a beautifully written article that transcends so many commercial, and ethnocentric, commentaries of the 2012 Olympics.

  58. The Modern Olympics is a celebration of self-absorption. As much hard work, dedication, and focus as are necessary for success in these activities, the relative unimportance of these feats of entertainment and athleticism should be inescapable. The "breathless" adulation of the nonparticipant "reporters" is the most annoying.

  59. Great column - nailed it.

    Missy Franklin should be able to maintain her eligibility and cash in. After all the NCAA is a professional league where all of the athletes - scholarships notwithstanding - work for free.

  60. I agree with Mr Bruni's analysis. However I at times was a little taken and frankly dismayed by the celebrations shown by some of the athletes after victory. Pride is one thing but the level of histrionics and self congratulations displayed in front of the losing teams at times seemed childish. What ever happened to humility and sportsmanship?. As the US woman's' basketball team was waving their flowers and medals to the audience after their victory last night I thought how nice it would have been if they had turned and applauded the second and third place team for their efforts. Maybe such a grand gesture is too much to ask.

  61. What is "the human soul"? How "good" is "the human soul"? If there is no essential relationship between "the human soul" and the humans, why don't the people delve more into the humans? Is it hard to understand the humans or must the humans be justified by something which is as visionary as "the soul of the Olimpics"? The reality is that many of us just don't know who are the humans and what are the humans for so that no one really cares about what have been exalted or blamed in terms of "the human blah blah blah".

  62. Atop all of it, for me, was listening to American soccer player and ambassador Abby Wambach. This is a woman who is the end product of Title IX, someone who has gone from being the new kid on the team to its wizened veteran on the field and first-rate spokesman off of it. She has so much to teach us, and we can only hope that her future horizons broaden beyond soccer. If she were to lead, I would follow, and the magic is there for her to do so.

  63. What a pity that you didn't mention two true heroes of the games - Usain Bolt and Britain's champion Mo Farah. Or that you ignored almost anything about Britain's astonishing number of golds for such a little country, and its triumph in hosting, (despite Mitt Romney's casual dismissal of its readiness). A pity because there has been something peculiarly British about these games - their revelry in the love of the triumph of humility, the individual and yes, eccentricity. I can't wait for the closing ceremony's celebration of the games' triumph of universality through sport, which I hope NBC won't butcher like it did the opening ceremony. The commentators to your piece have nailed it!

  64. "For the first time, every national team included at least one woman, and that was because three Muslim countries that had never before sent a female athlete to the Olympics finally did so."

    Actually, they HAD to do so if they wanted their men to compete.
    Finally, human rights and human dignity trumps male-dominated religion in the Olympics.

  65. A tip of the hat to Londoners who were gracious enthusiastic hosts and pulled off the games without a hitch and to Mother Nature who cooperated admirably. Nothing disconcerting here.

  66. Yes, a wonderful column about a wonderful two weeks of athletic ability and grace. But almost as nice was reading these comments with hardly a negative word or rebuke imbedded therein. Most reader comments to most NYTimes articles that allow them are so filled with complaints and nastiness that it can be downright depressing. Perhaps the Olympics helps bring out the better side of all of us non-competitors, too.

  67. ............. and Greg Louganis was there as a mentor. That made me happy.

  68. And what about the phenomenal performance of Ally Raisman, a remarkable athlete and community leader at such a young age?

  69. I used to look forward to the Olympics, but no more. They have been rendered unwatchable, what with five minutes of commercials after every seven or eight minutes of event coverage. For heaven's sake, NBC couldn't even show a 14 minute race (the 5000 meter) without interrupting the middle with 5 minutes of commercial. And then we have to put up with the cutsey, pop designation of the "Fab Five". What the heck is wrong with "The United States Women's Gymnastics Team". Oh well.... I guess we have to learn to accept that we have all become wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate Earth. Next olympics it will be the Citizen's Bank 4x100 men's relay, the Taco Bell balance beam event..... running in Walmart lane one is so and so from P&Gistan....

  70. Spoiler alert: Yes, both the physical prowess and the camaraderie of these young Olympians are inspiring, especially these days, when there is so little to cheer about. Of course Americans should be proud. But, when I read about the hours and hours of arduous practice, the sacrifices of parents and families, the relentless pursuit of Olympic dreams, I can't help but wonder why we don't invest equal time and effort in pursuing the educational excellence that would boost this generation's intellectual muscles and increase their chances for productive jobs in our global economy. While we celebrate the triumph of our brawn, by most measures we are losing the international brain competition.

  71. London 2012 has been a fantastic Olympics. As a typical Brit I was apprehensive about whether we would mess this up, especially after the show Beijing put on. But from the very start with the openining ceromony, the smooth running of the games itself, the huge cherering crowds (it didn't matter if the medalists were British or not) and finaly the warm and freindly atmosphere that London created all worked together to create a superb setting for one of the best Olympics ever. And to top if off a great performance by Team GB. Today I am a Happy and proud Brit.

  72. Don't let our nay-saying presidential wannabe drag you down, down, down . . .

  73. What makes this year so different than others? There are always firsts and there will for years to come. What are you going to celebrate next? Red hair twin wins high jump. I don't think that is a reason to be misty eyed. But I am sure that some people will feel good after reading this.

  74. Yep, perhaps, if we could channel a whole lot more of our innate human aggression into sports, rather than war and the raw pursuit of power and money, then your claim that "the human soul is good" might be justified.

  75. I am chagrined that India didn't win any medal. Hockey which gave India gold medals in the past is now a goner. In China, the State supports athletes, in US private support is excellent. India has neither and it shows in the result. I am sure there are many talented athletes but lack of support holds them back. I would like Mr.Bruni who wrote this excellent article will also address this question of why some countries have such poor records.

  76. I am glad to know that I wasn't the only touched by these Olympic games. In being addicted to my television, I have been reduced to tears at the spirit of fellowship that I have witnessed across countries, sports, gender and race/ethnicity. Bravo to the humanity that dwells within all of us!

  77. Dear Frank, I'm sitting here sobbing like a baby reading this beautiful tribute. I worked at the Lake Placid Olympics as interpreter for the (then) Soviet, East German, Czech and Bulgarian athletes. I managed their residence. It was a stressful time in world politics (remember Moscow we boycotted Moscow that summer due to the Afghan invasion, how ironic) and then the Soviets boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in L.A. How tragic to deny these stars and inspirations from glory. I think that these are the heroes of the world, THEY should be the ones we look up to, forget, as you put it, the VITRIOL in the world today. Why can't the world stay at peace like this? Tomorrow they're undoubtedly go back to hating and fighting.

    Thank you for your beautiful article. I'm printing it out and keeping it as a reminder of these incredible 2 weeks.


  78. You're right - politics should NEVER enter into the Olympics.

  79. Making the games available on-line was the best thing NBC did. A la Carte and live is the only way to go in the future. We can watch the sport we like.

    A particular joy was not having to deal with the announcers intrusions and the inane and irrelevant comments.

    Having watched Bolt's 100 meters live, later that evening at a friends house I watched it again. It was a completely different race - ruined by the announced excitedly yelling and telling us what we were seeing with our own eyes!

    Could he not just be silent for TEN seconds and let us experience a grate feat ourselves in our own way?

    On line, there was a "natural sound" option in which you could only hear the sounds in the stadium and be a part of the experience without intrusive talk and unnecessary explanations.

    I would urge US broadcasters to make this "natural sound" option available for domestic sports on TV - such as football, baseball, basketball, nascar, and specially soccer in which US commentators are pitiful. One would not even mind commercials with sound then.

  80. If you had to sum up the biggest thrill of watching the Olympics in two words it would be simply this: “the women.” Yes, Phelps, Bolt, Eaton are names that appropriately conjure up images of extraordinary, even super-human athletic prowess. But, it would be hard to deny that the women athletes dominated our collective interest. From soccer to gymnastics to beach volleyball to track and field, women athletes radiated a kind of enthusiasm and ability that was irresistible. The women were both the heart and the soul of these Olympics and they certainly won ours!

  81. You fail to mention that softball was eliminated while that so-called gymnastics with a ribbon was kept. THAT IS NOT A SPORT!!! That is performance art, and having it at the Olympics is a sick joke when a real sport, like softball, is left out.

    Also, I DVRed the women's soccer matches--USA vs. Canada and USA vs. Japan, but coulnd't help knowing not only the results but also the scores before I could watch them on the same day they were played.

    And, in what had to be the symbol of its incompetence, NBC showed Michael Phelps receiving his gold medal before it showed the event he won it for, while clasiming that the event would be showed live. I love watching the Olympics--winter and summer--and I understand that in this information age it's hard not to know the result before seeing an event I taped, but to have it done by the very network that's broadcasting it before the broadcast is beyond stupid and ridiculous.

    I vote that NBC be banned to cover only the events that have been eliminated.

  82. Thank you Frank for another well-written essay.

    I'm no pollyanna, but these moments that you describe do give us all a chance to share in what is good and what can inspire. I can't help but admire people who've come through physical challenges (Oscar Pistorius), cultural/political obstacles (the Saudi women), severe injuries (two members of the gold-medal-winning GB show jumping team), and age (Ian Miller on the Canadian show jumping team and Hiroshi Hoketsu, competing in dressage at age 71). They are an inspiration.

  83. You forgot to mention the young man who finished his heat of the relay on a broken leg. Such dedication, I can only imagine.

  84. Mr. Bruni beautifully sums of the value of Olympics. I am a huge fan of the summer and winter Olympics but while I am a runner I generally don't enjoy watching sporting events other than these games. But my reason for watching is more than for the sport i watch because I love and admire the raw human emotion and spirit of the games. The athletes work so hard to be there, the family members that suport them along the way, the pride each country takes in their athletes it's all wonderful and while nothing is prefect not even the Olympics I still treasure the games and admire the courage, strength and ability I witness in each set of games. There truly are so many stories of the greatness of humanity.

  85. Oh! Bull slimowri2--athletes in your 'little' sports -worked as hard as any to succeed. Far more acceptable for you argue that no 'sport' requiring JUDGES should be in the Olympics!--(even I can argue that case) but here McEnroe's on-camera chauvinism & famed lip-curl of disgust at case-in-point Artistic/Rythmic Gynastics was unseemly & un-called for! (what else is new? tho granted he's superb commentating major tennis events)
    IF you are going to complain about no mention of Hitlers '36 games! (Clean up Berlin?-Say what??) or the Olympic President's questionable exclusion of Munich massacre tribute/remembrance ---then WHERE is your comment of outrage regarding NBC's appalling 'cut away' to a boring pre-Games M.Phelps interview during the Opening Ceremony tribute to WW1 victims (for Gods Sake every family in Britain lost SOME-one in that butchery!!) but more pertinently still-to cut away during their tribute to recent victims of terrorist bombs in London -was shameful!
    Can you imagine the complaints on 'this side of the pond' if the Games were in New York & word got out that the Brits/Europeans had 'cut away' from an inevitable 9/11 victims tribute?? Enough said & all that aside -these Games were superb and bravos to all concerned--especially the host country that not only organized & conducted them brilliantly but became openly & unashamedly patriotic for once (not a recent trend) then 'cleaned up' beyond wildest dreams & expectations in medals!.