The Olympics' Magic at Uniting Us
My earliest recollection of the Olympic games is not the year or the city, but the march past, the definite highlight of the opening ceremony. As I followed the alphabetical order of nations, keenly waiting to see the Kenyan contingent, it dawned on me that there were countries like the Bahamas; I inwardly thought that the name sounded like bananas and instinctively dashed to the kitchen counter top and grabbed a couple sweet bananas.
Keenly glued to the tube, the announcer shouted, Bahrain! And I wondered who calls their country baharini? I wanted to pause that question to my kinsfolk, but everyone’s rapt attention was on the box, and I made a quick mental note to ask that question later.
Our moment arrived, and as soon as the announcers voice boomed “Kenia” we were all on our feet and there was a bedlam of noise as we outdid one another in pronouncing our country’s name correctly, Kenya! Kenya! Kenya!
Right there on our very eyes were our Olympians, resplendent in their bright red and black team gear waving at us from a far, far away city. I could swear that the waves were directed at me, and the pearly white smiles of our team captured the spirit of a nation.
It would be many years later that I would learn the history of the Olympics: ancient and modern, but the magic remained constant at each Olympiad.
Interesting too was the realization that at every Olympics, Kenya magically became one nation. The term ‘we’ found a new meaning. And how beautiful the Olympic fortnight became!
Television commentators would outdo each other in praising the ‘Kenian’ athletes as the finest anywhere, pointing out how ‘Kenians’ run at every excuse. The funniest part was how these foreign correspondents pronounced or mispronounced our athletes’ names: Kipker, Wakehurry, Paul Target, Ezekiel Kemboy an so forth.
While the commentator’s mispronunciations have remained constant, so has our newfound patriotism at these summer games. As a country characterized by divergent culture, religious beliefs, socio-economic status and political convictions, the Olympic games have become the glue that galvanizes us as a people.
Luckily we are not the only ones. Different warring cities in ancient Greece would hold a truce every time the Olympics games were on. They would compete in different disciplines in one accord, casting aside their differences for the sake of the games.
The same thing happens in Kenya, and the pronoun ‘we’ takes its rightful meaning in denoting us as one nation.
It’s 2012, the age of social media and the ‘we’ slogan could not travel any faster. We see updates highlighting a Kemboi gold medal, a new profile picture of Rudisha, a hash tag WorldRecord, gazillion likes on Jepkosgei’s page and endless Olympics chatter on the phone or on one on one.
As the games come to a close in two days, I fear that that the two-week truce will come to an end. The word ‘we’ will go from ‘Kenyans’ to we ‘tribe’, or ‘political party’ X Y or Z. And that makes me really sad.
Nelson Mandela said that there are, “more things that unite us, than those that divide us” and it’s for this reason that I wish, repeat wish, for effect that the Olympic games would be everyday so we can remain together as one.
Well, that’s an unrealistic goal, but the Olympics motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, and Stronger" encourages me.
As a nation we should run Faster, rise Higher, and stay Stronger against the petty and trivial things that set us apart. Abraham Lincoln, rightly put it that, “a house divided can not stand.” And Martin Luther King Jr. iced the cake with his observation that, “'we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”
Well done our Olympians for helping us rediscover our common destiny, may peace be found within our borders and may the Almighty bless us mightily.
By Joji Muwangi
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