Bracketing Olympic Tradition

by Andrew Stein

Not long ago, I walked through the stadium of the most recent summer Olympics from 2008 in Beijing. Today, I walk through the stadium of the ancient Greek Olympic games. The place where the very notion of the Olympics was born. The track was a little smaller and the stadium held less people than in Beijing; however, without this stadium and this tradition, none of the other Olympic games may have occurred.

As I walk through the stadium, I imagine the athletes that would have competed here centuries ago. My sister introduced to me the idea of the “Normal Guy” when we were watching the games together. The Normal Guy Theory states that the athletes now are so accomplished at their individual sports that even the slowest Olympic runner, the shortest Olympic jumper, or the weakest Olympic weight lifter are so many standard deviations above the mean in their area of expertise that when paired with an average individual or even an individual who would be considered a superior athlete at the high school or collegiate level, the Olympian would be far and away the better. I bring this up now because possibly, many centuries ago, those competing in this stadium were fewer deviations away from average and did not spend the last four years focusing on one specific skill, but instead, were simply talented and athletic individuals who have chosen to compete.

I line up at the starting line and imagine the crowd roaring while waiting anxiously. I sit in the stands in both the standard and the honored seats and pretend a discuss or hurdling event is about to begin. As I walk out of the stadium humming to myself John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare, I smile knowing that the next games are about a year away in London 2012.

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