Olympically engaged

| 09 Aug 2012 | 10:31

    This is NOT the official newspaper column of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
    Never mind that my eldest son is in London as we speak, providing me with live updates from key Olympic venues (translated: he sent me one picture from the swimming venue, which seemed like a live update at the time). Forget that in an earlier professional life I covered the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles and the 1988 Winter Games at Calgary. And don't even consider the fact that I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who actually helped deliver bribes . . . er, booty . . . er, gifts to visiting Olympic bid decision-makers.
    None of that matters. Not proximity. Not experience. Not connections.
    None of it.
    The only thing that matters in this regard is money, and I don't have the financial wherewithal to be the official Olympic ANYTHING. In fact, I'm probably walking on thin ice here just by using the O-word. There are probably legal limitations and restrictions regarding its use of which I'm unaware. But ignorance of the law being no excuse, next week's column will probably be coming to you from some Swiss slammer.
    Assuming, of course, there are slammers in Switzerland – and they aren't already filled with rogue badminton players and coaches (seriously, who comes to the Olympics with a game plan that includes losing?).
    All of which is why I want to make it very clear right up front that this is NOT the official newspaper column of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
    Besides, I'm not sure what I could possibly say about the athletes who are currently competing in London that I can't already say about men and women who are Olympically engaged in non-Olympic endeavors all around the world.
    Take Joni, for example. Joni is one of the hardest-working, most dedicated colleagues with whom I have ever had the privilege of working. Bright, good-natured and loyal, she is the ultimate team player, always willing to give that extra effort for the good of the project or the company. She also does an amazing job of maintaining balance in her life as a single mother, finding quality time for friends, family members and her No. 1 priority: her teenage daughter.
    Then there's Jake, my nephew, who is on vehicle retrieval duty as part of his military assignment in Afghanistan while back home his young wife, Liz, tries to figure out how to be both mom and dad to their two-month-old baby. Jake's Facebook status yesterday was simple and full of yearning: "I miss my family!" But I have never heard him say a begrudging word about fulfilling his military commitment. He has a job to do, and he's doing it. And so is Liz.
    And then there's Frank, a neighbor who is in his 90s and whose health is failing and whose hearing is almost gone. Frank manages to make it to church almost every week in his wheelchair, with a weak smile but a firm handshake for everyone he meets, giving hope and encouragement to people who by all rights should be giving hope and encouragement to him.
    And what about the young man I watched during a summer league basketball game last week? There was a close play, with lots of flailing young arms and legs, and the ball skipped out of bounds. The referee made the best call he could, and awarded the ball to the young man's team. But the boy looked the ref in the eye and shook his head, acknowledging that he had been the last one to touch the ball, and it should instead be awarded to the other team.
    See what I mean? It's all around us. Olympian performance and accomplishment. Olympian courage in the face of adversity. Olympian sportsmanship and integrity. Olympian kindness and compassion and service. That's the spirit of the Olympics, and it's everywhere.
    Whether or not you read about it in an official Olympic newspaper column.
    To read more by Joseph B. Walker please go to www.josephbwalker.com.