Cast your mind back – if you will – to a time three summers back, a little over 1,100 days ago, August 8, 2008, to be precise.
Does the date mean anything to you? Can you remember anything about what you might have done?
If the answer is no – as it was, at first, in our case – perhaps we can help jog misplaced memories.
Did you perhaps watch the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, a four-hour pyrotechnic spectacular that culminated in Li Ning, the Chinese gymnast, being hoisted to the roof of the Bird’s Nest Stadium to light the competition’s fabled flame?
There’s a good chance that you did, for research has discovered that more than one billion people across the planet tuned in that night. That’s a little over 15% of the entire human race.
It’s a staggering finding, for sure, but then the Olympics is a staggering event.
Much more than an arena for athletic endeavour, the Olympics transcends the quest for sporting success. More than anything else, the Olympics is a conduit for connection.
Think about it for a moment: The Earth’s population stands at a little over 6.5 billion, but on this one day, for this one event, more than one billion of those people cast their eyes in the same direction.
That’s just the audience. On the ground, in Beijing, 11,028 athletes from 204 countries competed in 28 sports and 302 events during a memorable month.
For our purposes, Beijing’s official motto couldn’t have been more fitting:
One World, One Dream.
In other words:
We are all connected.
From the United States and Uganda, Mexico and Macedonia, Iceland and Iraq, the athletes paraded around the Bird’s Nest, their flags aloft, their connection clear.
From the biggest (China, 639 competitors) to the smallest (Dominica, two competitors), all in attendance shared common dreams, common goals.
Differences discarded, fights forgotten, the planet felt – for those four hours, at least – a much more positive place.
It might not have been his principle motivation, but Baron Pierre de Coubertin – the man behind the modern Olympic Movement – created a vehicle for togetherness, building bridges, forming friendships, making connections all across the Earth.
Since Coubertin revived the Olympics, the Summer Games have been staged in 22 different cities, from Montreal to Moscow, Beijing to Berlin and Seoul to St Louis.
It’s London’s turn next, which brings us to our main point.
The Olympic Torch, as is its tradition, will be carried across the UK next summer, enabling people from all over the British Isles to see it and to share in the Olympic experience.
It’ll make countless stops during 70 days in which 8,000 torchbearers will connect in sharing the honour of carrying it on its long road to London.
You’ll be interested to learn that nominated in their number is Mark Allison, aka Run Geordie Run, resting at his home in North-East England, having completed his 3,100 mile run across the United States last week.
Having raised almost $140,000 for good causes this summer, Mark has a great chance of being chosen, and, for what it’s worth, we don’t think there could be a more suitable candidate.
Here in Saunderstown, we just hope he’ll take Chara
His good luck charm and official mascot – along for the experience.
The Olympic OM. There’s a thought!