August 14, 2012

O Sport

Posted in Financial Planning tagged , , , at 11:31 am by Iris Mack Dayoub

“O Sport, you are Beauty! … O Sport, you are Justice! … O Sport, you are Happiness! The body trembles in bliss upon hearing your call! …”

— Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Many of my friends will be surprised when I tell them that one of my favorite competitions in the 2012 Olympics was Poetry. Yes, poetry. Thanks to NPR for reviving the tradition.

Poetry and sport went hand in hand at athletic festivals in the days of the ancient Greeks and during the Modern Olympics from 1896 to 1948. According to Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games, the ancient Greeks very much sought perfection in the body and the intellect. Poets of the Greek world would set up stalls or stand on boxes to orate their new work at the Olympic Games.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the games in 1896, included music, painting, architecture, and poetry on the Olympic roster. He even anonymously entered his own poem called “Ode to Sport” which won the gold medal in 1912.

This year NPR invited poets to compose original works celebrating athletes and athletics. The first week of the Olympics a new poem was introduced each morning on Morning Edition, giving the audience an opportunity to judge who should win the victor’s laurel crown. The winner was announced on Friday of the last week of the Olympics.

You can read and/or listen to all of the poems along with interviews of the poets on

Here’s my favorite, Swim Your Own Race, written by South African poet Mbali Vilakazi, a tribute to South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, the first female amputee ever to qualify for the Olympic Games.

There is life here

Beneath the surface tension
of shattered
bones, dreams and splintered muscles
things broken
and those that may never be replaced.

Pulling the weight of it,
you do not tread the water wounded
and in retreat

By the determined strokes of fate
you swim your own race
The shoulder of your strength leaning
against the turn —
the eye that didn’t see that day,
stopping the clock on the vision of your time.
You continue to beat
into the heart of the spectacle
Manchester City, Beijing, Athens and London.

In no ordinary silence
do we watch
our own feared hopes waking
and now, breathless
in awe —
you are unforgettable.

Woman of scars, and triumph
the dance is fluid
tears of loss flowing
towards your many firsts
You are the Order of Ikhamanga
in gold.
A flower,
beautiful and unique
among the baobabs of the land

Your shape shifting,
The disabled-abled body
A quest
untempered by its tests —

“if you want to get there, you go on”

You have already won
You always do
And we do too

We are the believers.

The message in its possibility:

A new freestyle,
Long distance
And in your own lane.

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