September 1, 2008
The View From Turkey
By Hatice Soykan
Youth Journalism International
Manchester, ENGLAND – The Olympics mean something different to everyone.
I live in England but I got to watch the 2008 Beijing Olympics with family and friends in Turkey. I found out what opportunities the Olympics brought to Turkey and formed a better opinion of what the Games mean to me.
Set in Beijing, the forever-awaited Olympics were China's chance to shine and it's clear that they thought that, too. They kicked off the show with a major opening ceremony – there was singing, fireworks and so many exaggerated performances.
However, the days that followed offered something more extraordinary. News, rumors, and people talking – each with different stories questioning China with what could be truth or lies.
Was all the effort just for impression and advertising? Did China really do some of the things they were blamed for? I'll leave that for you to decide.
Watching the Games, I learned what the word "competition" meant to people. Some liked the feeling, some felt pressured and some felt that it was truly not that fair. In my opinion, competition is good. It unites us and gives us a chance to do what we do best at the best level we can.
To my surprise, what amazed me most was the amount of hidden politics behind what is supposed to be some friendly competition.
I saw from a different country that they were doing anything they could to win just for advertisement purposes. They offered medal winners some amazing things, and if someone did win, their face was all over the news.
It was major publicity! To some politicians, getting the country's name out there was what mattered most in the Olympics.
But to others, the Olympics meant peace between people and countries.
I guess it all depends on the way you want to see it.
I saw some people who really deserved to win that didn't – and some who won multiple times who didn't seem like they cared that much at all.
Some athletes practiced for years and didn't do their ultimate best when the spotlight was on them.
The winners experienced a glimpse of stardom. Though the rumors that follow winners and their countries may be painful and cruel, the athletes can be innocent and we mustn't forget they are just one of us.
For example when the U.S. won the swimming relay, Michael Phelps said he'd had fun, but just wanted to see his mom.
The athletes really are just kind-hearted and are there to represent their own country.
In Turkey, an Ethiopian woman, Elvan Abeylegesse, raced for us. But the publicity she got was sad. We heard reports that she was against Ethiopians and that her family had been threatened. But at the end of the race, she hugged and high-fived the Ethiopian winner. The two shared their wins with each other and ignored the horrible rumors surrounding them.
These two stories are examples of why we shouldn't believe everything we hear. They teach us to actually look for evidence before judging.
The defeated didn't go home unhappy. A medal and a number don't mean much – it's being there and making you and your country as proud as you can that counts.
At the end of the day, athletes were there representing their country and doing all they could. Winning is unimportant. Being brave enough to go and doing all you can is the actual winning.
Four years from now, this will all be behind us and the 2012 London Olympics will be the new hot topic. We'll see if they impress us even more or if China will remain unbeatable.
The Olympics seems to be the only place where everyone forgets about war and fighting and just thinks about coming together.
Who knows? Maybe competition is our way to peace.
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