Saturday, February 13, 2010

Depends on What You Find Bittersweet

This three-day weekend is a strange cosmic mashup of events.

The big sad news on Friday was the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili on the luge track in Vancouver. Of course it was sad, a 21-year-old athlete living his dream of being an Olympian and, in his own personal Appointment in Samarra, meeting his death instead of Olympic glory. And so the buzz word for the opening ceremony was bittersweet. The commentators all used it repeatedly, as did the print journalists.

But at the same time as the athletes were assembling in Canada, the soldiers were assembling in Afghanistan in a massive offensive to rout out the Taliban. Strange fate, or by some design, to have this surge on the day of the opening ceremonies. Bob Costas made no reference to it.

I think the Olympics are a good idea. What else brings so many young people from around the world together? Where else does Iran occasionally show up to participate in a Western ritual?

But the real bittersweetness this weekend is that these athletes’ young counterparts are on active combat duty in a hostile land. They are knowingly risking their lives to put an end to an enemy who threatens so many lives.

I don’t know what the medal count is, but the NY Times reports that the heaviest fighting is to come.