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The Olympic Truce

[ by Charles Cameron — the Truce, great gospel music, and athletes in ads in slomo — a personal view ]


If there are two things about the Olympics I like, they would be the Olympic Truce, and athletes in slow motion.

Here’s what the IOC’s site has to say about the Truce:

The tradition of the “Truce” or “Ekecheiria” was established in ancient Greece in the 9th century BC by the signature of a treaty between three kings. During the Truce period, the athletes, artists and their families, as well as ordinary pilgrims, could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries

and it’s relevance today:

Taking into account the global context in which sport and the Olympic Games exist, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to revive the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce with the view to protecting, as far as possible, the interests of the athletes and sport in general, and to encourage searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world.

Through this global and symbolic concept, the IOC aims to :

  • mobilise youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideals;
  • use sport to establish contacts between communities in conflict; and
  • offer humanitarian support in countries at war ; and more generally :
  • to create a window of opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation.


To be honest, I don’t care in the least what human runs fastest or jumps highest, and if I did I wouldn’t have a huge investment in what territory he or she comes from or lives in.

The Games are the Games though, they affect people’s lives, and are affected by them. I have, here in my room, a copy of the official book of the 1936 Games which I picked up in a swap meet for a dollar or two:

American Olympic Committee Report, 1936, Games of the XIth Olympiad, Berlin

Somewhere, also, I have the official English playbook for the 1934 Oberammergau Passion Play — two stark reminders of how we are sometimes suborned from the better angels of our nature by the worse…

If I have a minute of silence, then, it is for the Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Games.




Again, corporate sponsorships, banking industries and advertising are not generally among my favored interests, but slow motion is — and while I care little for the athletic record-setting and patriotic rivalrous sides of the Olympics, great athletes are often beautiful, something the Greek sculptors understood, and slomo can capture that beauty for us.

Besides, I have always been a fan of Morgan Freeman, ever since I heard him play the role of the Preacher opposite Clarence Fountain in Gospel at Colonus — undoubtedly the most joyous theatrical experience of my life…

Here to give you a taste is Freeman’s opening sermon:

and perhaps the most audacious musical moment of all, the great battle of the bands as Oedipus attempts to enter Colonus:




Here, then, are three VISA ads for the Games this year, accompanied by that unmistakable Freeman voice, and offered here for the beauty, sheer joy and creative excellence they present.

First, the audience speaking to the heart of the athlete — itself a remarkable insight:

Second, the way running itself runs like a thread through the life of Lopez Lomong:

And third, the difference a hundredth of a second makes — and again, the roar of the crowd:

That last clip has Morgan Freeman saying:

A hundredth of a second – it’s faster than the blink of an eye, faster than a flash of lightning – and it was the difference between Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals instead of seven – a hundredth of a second – just think of the cheers if lightning strikes twice!

I know — that’s the speed thing, not the beauty thing. And I’m an ideas man — an aesthetic man, not an athletic man.

So I take my long jumps sideways, in the mind…


Wikipedia tells us:

US National Park Ranger Roy Sullivan has the record for being struck by lightning the most times. Sullivan was struck seven times during his 35-year career. He lost the nail on one of his big toes, and suffered multiple injuries to the rest of his body

Again I think of the poet Randall Jarrell, whom I quoted here not so long ago as saying:

A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.

Only the Muse knows what damage that does to the poet’s mind.




To sum up:

If I were God — and friends, that’s not in nay way a risk we need to concern ourselves about, flat out impossible — I would be watching the Olympics in slomo from a dozen angles simultaneously, without commentators.

And I’d be praying everyone world-wide would take the Truce as seriously as the Games.

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