Celebrating the spirit of Olympics


As Rio beckons, it is perhaps the perfect time to revisit some great Olympic moments. Who can forget the mind-blowing performance of American athlete Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Games, held at a time when Hitler was at the peak of his power? Owens, the grandson of an Afro-American slave, won four gold medals, bursting the myth of Aryan supremacy and putting the abhorrent Führer in his place. It was not easy for Owens. In the qualifying rounds of the long jump, he was on the verge of elimination after committing consecutive fouls. Finally, it was a German competitor, Luz Long, who advised Owens to adjust his run-up marker. Owens did so and went on to win the gold medal, while Long had to settle for silver. “You can melt down all the medals I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Long,” Owens said later.

Heroes like Owens and Long elevate the Olympic Games to a different plane, demonstrating how human beings transcend their differences in the pursuit of glory. The Rio Games, seen in this context, is more crucial than ever. The world today is a dangerous place, what with a frightened Europe, a fighting Middle East, a divided United States, and an unsettled Asia. Rio offers the world a wonderful opportunity to shed its differences and unite for a common purpose.

To celebrate the spirit of Olympics, we have put together a special package. We take a look at the chances of the Indian contingent, especially in hockey, archery, shooting, wrestling, athletics and tennis. In an exclusive interview, Saina Nehwal, who leads the charge in badminton, tells us about the hardships behind the quest for Olympic glory. Tennis star Rohan Bopanna writes exclusively for THE WEEK from Rio, sharing his views as well as visuals that capture the life in the Games Village.

Away from the glitz and glamour, life has not been easy for "intersex" athletes like Dutee Chand, the second Indian to compete in the showpiece 100m race after the legendary P.T. Usha. And, how can we miss Usain Bolt, the Jamaican superhero who is eyeing an unprecedented triple-triple—three golds in three consecutive Games? We present before you a profile of the great man as seen through the eyes of his close friends, old teachers and the legend himself. Our coverage of the Games will continue over the next few weeks with Deputy News Editor Mathew T. George reporting from Rio.

Apart from the Olympics package, we have our annual watch special this week. According to Senior Special Correspondent Neha S. Bajpai, the luxury watch industry is going through a major crisis, forcing even major brands to slash prices. It seems the time is right for some prudent and aesthetic investment. We are introducing this week Arugula Guy, a new column by Manu Chandra. The celebrated chef says the Indian culinary scene could soon see a revival of traditional food and recipes.

As we celebrate Olympics, veteran sports commentator Rob Hughes offers a word of caution referring to the doping scandals and the rampant corruption. “It is still, for some of us, a far, far better way to celebrate human competitiveness than the alternative, which usually leads to war,” writes Hughes. “But if we watch over the three weeks, can we trust what our eyes and the scoreboards tell us?”

For the sake of humanity, I hope we can. The credibility of the greatest show on earth is too precious to be undermined by a few rotten apples. So, dear readers, let us together wish Rio 2016, and the Indian contingent, all success.

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