Closing of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing

August 25, 2008

Last night, switching between CNN, FOX News and ESPN, I was trying to absorb all the the things that were happening all over the US and China.  The democrats are preparing for their Democrat Olympics in Denver and Beijing was still impressing the world with its closing ceremonies.

When the Olympic flag was transferred to the IOC chairman, who then gave it to the mayor of London – a funny thought ran across my mind. I wondered what he was thinking and how they will try to put up something as grandiose as Beijing.

The commentator said something that I barely heard but really made an impact.  When the flag was being given to the Mayor of London the narrator said “and the IOC Chairman encouraged London, that the focus is on the athletes.”

Before, during and at the closing of the Olympics, it seemed to me that the city of Beijing was really competing for attention against the athletes.  The city is the host for the Games – but the real stars should be the athletes.  I was waiting for documentaries of the athletes and their stories how they got to the Olympics and other inspiring stories – but there was none.  Rather a plethora of ads and Panasonic infomercials, the building of the Bird’s nest and The Cube, the unending smog, the closing of many factories just to lower the pollution index, and anything else about Beijing, rather than the athletes who make Olympics happen.

Every generation must remember the story of Jesse Owens and the German runner Lutz who even helped Owens and in the end, chanted his name during the 1932 Berlin Games, powerfully illustrating to the world that athleticism, brotherhood and friendship were really above any philosophical ideologies being espoused by the powers-that-be in Germany at that time.

I was waiting for something like this. Something more personal.  Something more lasting. We can study the architecture and inspiration of BIRD’s NEST for years to come, but the lives of the athletes are short and their colorful careers are passing. The lives of the people are more interesting, rather than the building and the facilities where the games were held.

During the Olympics, there were few stories that evoked inspiration.  Usain Bolt, dreaming, thinking and then deciding that it was possible to break the WR in Men’s relay.  The agony of the US team dropping their batons!  Michael Phelps breaking the records. Michael Phelps looking to his left to acknowledge his Mom, then turn to his right and saw President George Bush cheering him on as he won another gold for USA.  The athlete with disability who did well in the triathlon. The victory pose of Bolt with the Jamaican flag draped on his shoulders. The strain on the muscles as the gymnasts hit their different stations, the Australian diver who clinched a 112.70 score in the 10M platform dive beating the Chinese favorite diver…. these were the stories that should have been highlighted more than anything else.
This got me thinking about Church life as well.  It is like being invited to attend worship. And once inside the Church building, you hear testimonies upon testimonies of how the Church was built and the amount of money it took, the challenges they faced and where the materials came from.  Then someone spoke about the air-conditioning system in the hall and the filter designed to clean the air inside.  The music ministry talked about the quality of their instruments and the different music schools where their musicians came from.  The pastor came in and talked about the budget, the ministry programs, the plan for another church facilities across the road for sports and other outreach projects.

Then it was time to close.  There was loud and festive music celebrating the building and how beautiful it was. And then it was time to go.

There was no mention of someone who made it all possible. There was no mention of Jesus Christ, or our Savior who died on the cross that we might live.  The Church building was built so that the people may worship – but in the end, it was the builders, it was the building that was worshipped.

I had these feelings at the overall Beijing Games.  The Olympics turned out to be more about the host city than what the Games is all about.  It turned out to be this super “angsted” desire to showcase the city rather than its intended guests.

And thinking of Beijing Games made me realize that there are times when Church life is about what we have made with our hands, rather than what God has done because of His love.

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