I have never been happier to own a high definition television as I have over these past few days. Like an estimated 70 million other viewers, my girlfriend and I watched the opening ceremony take place Friday for the 29th Olympic Games being held in Beijing this year from the comfort of our living room.
I have always been a fan of watching the opening ceremony, mostly because it is inspiring to see so many people of different nationalities gathered in one place to compete and represent their respective countries. Even more amazing was the spectacle put on by the Chinese in what I can only describe as something I do not think will ever be matched in my lifetime. But the event has not gone off without a hitch.
I awoke Friday morning much the same way I always do. I knocked my cell phone to the floor as I fumbled to turn off the blaring alarm clock, which at least uses music from my iPod to wake me up rather than the mechanical "beep-beep-beep" most people are used to.
I turned on my television and began flipping through the different news channels (MSNBC, Headline News, CNN, among others) when a picture of rolling tanks caught my eye.
CNN was reporting that Russian tanks and troops were crossing into Georgia, a U.S. ally that has been a thorn in Russia's side for years, after fighting broke out between Georgian troops and separatists in South Ossetia, a breakaway province formerly of Georgia and friendly to Russia, nearly a week ago.
Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili was on television pleading with the United States, as well as the rest of the international community, for help. This attack by Russia, ironically, began nearly at the same time the opening ceremony was getting set to kick off in Beijing. I can remember watching the showing of the ceremony later Friday night and seeing President George W. Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talking with each other rather seriously.
One of the commentators made a remark that they were probably talking about the upcoming games, oblivious to the fact that in reality, both were discussing the bombs and bullets that were flying hundreds of miles away.
Then, after the opening ceremony was over, word came of a seemingly random murder taking place at a popular tourist destination in Beijing. Much to the dismay of Chinese officials, who have promised these Olympic Games would be the safest ever held, it was a U.S. citizen, Todd Bachman, who was killed. Not only that, it turned out that he was the father-in-law of U.S. men's volleyball coach, Hugh McCutcheon. Bachman's wife, Barbara, was also seriously injured in the attack.
To me, both events cast a dark shadow on an event that was designed to bring about peace among different countries through the universal language of sportsmanship.
Sure, everyone wants to win for their respective countries, but it is great to see an athlete who has just lost a gold medal by a split second and still congratulate the winner with a smile on his or her face.
The tragedy is that even though the games were meant to give a moment of togetherness among different nations and cultures, two events have reminded us that the reality we live in is not always quite so perfect.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.