By Jack R. Noel
Monday, January 7, 2002
Dateline: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Jack R. Noel
It's 10:40 AM (EST) and I just came inside after having the unusual privilege of watching (and cheering for) the Olympic Torch as it passed right under my 5th floor window. The runner in this relay which stretches for thousands of miles was preceded by a herald; the modern day version is a police officer using his car’s loud speaker. And this herald’s enthusiasm couldn’t be denied even by loud, sharp mechanical harmonics as he repeated, “The Olympic Torch is coming! About twenty minutes from now!”
I’d seen the announcement in the Ann Arbor News a few days before and thought I was prepared. I’d decided that I would take a one-use camera down to the street and get some pictures. Naturally, I couldn't find the camera until after I got back to my place. I soon had dressed for the 25 degree cold and descended to the street. (To me, it was interesting to see that there were no "regular cameras" in sight. On this stretch, the crowd was strung out thinly but there were four guys with camcorders within fifty feet of me. And all of them "directors," like Steven Spielberg.)
But that's not the whole story as far as I'm concerned. For me this was a very special moment because I've been attendant to the Olympic legend since my early teens. From the seventh to twelfth grades, I was devoted to the throwing events; javelin, hammer, discus and shot put. It always seemed truly mystical; that this athletic and spiritual event had been revived and existed now on a far grander scale than the people of ancient Greece ever dreamed. And this ceremonial recreation of carrying the Olympic Flame, the flame of the human spirit, from Athens to far distant lands is very much a part of their idea and ideal. It proclaims to the World and to the Ages; make way for Excellence.
The runner was a fit looking woman of about thirty; she wore the sky blue and white colors of the Winter Olympics. She ran strongly and confidently with the heavy torch up the long hill to where I stood. As she ran by, I certainly cheered and waved. But my emotions at the moment were more intense than any outward sign I could give. Before my eyes, the effort of thousands of individuals and scores of countries (and yes, corporations) was in evidence. All those people, all that money and energy, devoted to a single, symbolic purpose!
And that purpose is but symbolic; it's rather anticlimactic to see at street level. It's also paradoxical, because this "smallest parade" that lasted but moments in my perspective seemed to say that what is small, mundane and gone in seconds really does represent the immensity and eternity of the human spirit. It's smallness and brevity was precious to me in that way; for I've never had even this much contact with the Olympics. For the first time in my life, I'd seen the actual manifestation of what I'd only known from television, books and my own lonely athletic devotion.
As I returned to my apartment I realized that, in this first week of 2002, I'd experienced the beginning of the new year, some special visits with my daughter and had seen the Olympic torch carried right past my own little patch of earth. This makes the first week of 2002 a keynote beginning indeed. Dare I predict; I think that this year will be one of transcendence for us? Yes, I dare. For I see now that, by inspiration and devotion, we can overcome and transcend any obstacle, even Time itself. And I hope this proves fully and completely accurate for each and every one of us and for our nation. I feel this now more than ever; it is real, it is all real.
May our own flames, individually and collectively, burn brightly and eternally. May we carry our flames and The Flame to Olympic heights of achievement, goodness and happiness. Carry your sacred torch high and 2002 AD will be transcendental.