The biggest winner of the recently concluded London Olympics was the free world.
We had a few weeks of tough battles by powerful foes from so many countries in the world. We thrilled over the ample drama. We saw plenty of suspense — and, best of all for the sake of history, all of it took place in swimming pools, track and field surfaces, and basketball courts. That is, the Olympics stayed peaceful and calm.
Thank God! We can feel as if we dodged a bullet because we all secretly dreaded the worst might occur there.
I am old enough to remember vividly the political turmoil of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the first time that people's political views spilled on to the spirit of worldwide competition. We had to come to terms with the changing winds of the world.
Then, four years later, we all witnessed our worst international nightmare at the Munich Olympics in 1972, when Israeli athletes were slain by terrorists. The sports events were suddenly rendered irrelevant. It didn't matter any longer who won or lost in 1972.
Since that dark day, the Olympics have never been the same. We have had rumblings here and there of all kinds of stripes and we accept them almost routinely. The Olympics are now part of the world's popular culture.
The Olympics competition traditionally is a time when the great athletes take center stage and dominate the world's water-cooler talk for a few weeks.
These athletes are truly remarkable. They train most of their lives for a few moments of athletic competition while the whole world looks on. The pressure is indescribable. The tension is unbearable. The stakes, meanwhile, are sky high. It's almost miraculous when any of them can keep their cool and win gold medals. They become more than superstars, more than icons.
They become heroes.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution," which is now available. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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