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I don’t know about you but I am seriously exhausted. I’ve been flat on my back for two solid weeks, watching more sports than I ever have seen before at any one time. It started some sixteen days ago with the opening ceremony and finally finished with that bizarre, hallucinatory finale, part of which looked like a Busby Berkley spectacle on drugs. I loved the mono cycles.

I never knew that watching arcane sports with athletes from obscure countries could be so seriously addicting. I went to the University of Michigan when they had one of the best football teams in the country and never attended one game. Same with Florida, which was close to treason in that state. I have yet to see a game of cricket, rugby or footy in the most sports mad country on Earth. For some reason, I made an exception for the Olympics. From the very beginning, I was hooked.

Ten years ago we went to Beijing. It looked absolutely nothing like what we saw on the big box. There were hardly any cars. There were millions of bicycles. When we went to see a second-tier tourist attraction there was no one around who spoke English. Like the Forbidden City, it seemed to be frozen in history, much too spacious and empty for its significance as the capital of China. Look at it now!

Regular readers will know that my association with sports has been spotty, at best. When I was ten we lived in India. I picked up a bamboo pole one day and tried my hand at pole vaulting. I couldn’t understand the rules of cricket so that was out. Shortly after clearing six feet (less than 2 meters), I learned that a high jumper had bettered my record without recourse to a pole. I was devastated. Over the years I took up ping pong, badminton and volleyball, never achieving much success beyond beating my brother-in-law.

Australians take their sports very, very seriously. That may be a bit of an understatement. There are huge numbers of Aussies who spend vast amounts of time in or on the water, rowers, swimmers, surfers, sailors, scuba divers, kite surfers, kayakers, divers. Then there are the walkers and runners and cyclists, motor cyclists. Not counting the team sports, which seem to be the backbone of the social structure here. The devastating drought always seems to generate at least one plaintive letter to the editor–“what will happen to the sporting fields if they don’t get enough water?” Farmers don’t get half the sympathy.

My sympathies are always with the underdog when I watch sporting events. That pretty much rules out rooting for my fellow Yanks, but I can always cheer on Canadians and now Australians, too. Even though the population of this place barely cracks 20 million, they manage to do amazingly well. They were upset this year to have been trounced by the Poms. That said, they raked in far more medals than any country this size should. Of course, they had a huge team and competed in almost everything. Canadians try hard, usually doing well at paddling. They get their own back in the winter Olympics.

All in all, I’m glad it’s over. The commercials were clever and some were quite funny but I’ve seen them all too many times. I know the names the Australian “heroes.” I’ve been touched by the poignant stories of the ones who didn’t come first, of those who collapsed before the finish line. It is not about the gold, really. That will just gather dust, but the effort, energy, camaraderie and emotions will resonate down the years.

The withdrawal symptoms will be hard to take, but I have four years before the temptation comes around again. In the meantime, maybe I can get some exercise. Olympic crack. It’s a hard habit to kick, but I’ll make it.

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