by K. Titchenell

The war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world...

In an hour-long ellipsoid procession of variously sized groups, each sporting its unique colors and uniform, the segregated delegations of Olympians enter the stadium every four years, behind the standards of their respective nations. After a frenetic fortnight of agonistic woes and triumphs, the stadium again sees the contestants assembled, but on this occasion, competition now history, they are permitted to mingle, exchange pins, hats, addresses and recollections in a poignant heterogeneity of colors, raiment, and, very probably, with newly awakened perspectives and cultural perspicacity. One cannot but wish that the procession could go that one step further and achieve a less transient manifestation of cooperation which would, like some benign epidemic, disperse itself around the world.

Imagine what might happen if the games were to start where they leave off, with athletes unfettered by nationalism. Imagine contestants competing as themselves with no flag of allegiance beside names on the scoreboard; multinational teams whose members have been able to train together in an exchange of disparate techniques, outlooks and cultures; and, perhaps, some ad hoc assemblages just for fun. Imagine athletes being given the option of competing as a "world citizen" free from association with a nation in support of whose mind-numbing propaganda they would prefer not to dedicate their efforts, with whose policies they take issue, or with whose hubris they feel supremely uncomfortable.

Suppose one nation, perhaps a small one, perhaps one which has never participated in the games before, were to open its doors and permit citizens of any nation to compete under its auspices as a member of a world team. Participation would no doubt be minimal at first, with nations prohibiting the practice and disparaging anyone who would abandon his or her national identity; but starting small, with a few countries secure enough in their own national character to remain unthreatened by aspiring to a larger, more universal identity, productive seeds could be sown. As it became more generally recognized that prohibiting or discouraging the practice of world representation is symptomatic of a parochial attitude of self-aggrandizement and disdain for others, one might even see the larger nations, always so eager to outdo each other, compete to be the most open minded and universally conscious. It would indeed be strangely ironic if nationalistic fervor were to bring about the downfall of nationalism in the games.

It is hard to fathom the depth of disappointment felt by an athlete who has achieved the peak of form through years of determined practice and conditioning, suddenly being faced with nonparticipation due to some politically motivated boycott of the games. The option of world representation would certainly put a damper on future boycotts and on the use of the Olympics for political ends.

As if waking from a sublime dream, one is forced to conclude that the games are likely to continue to take place much as they have in the past. It cannot hurt, however, to plant ideas here and there. With well-meant thoughts, it is remarkable what can be achieved.

K. Titchenell, a college professor for many years, is a homeschooling parent and author of the book SAT Practice: The New Verbal Section and the online English language reference and review material at http://www.abacus-es.com/sat/.

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