Tell me, have you ever shared a gasp of wonder with more than half the population of the Earth? Have you ever, moments later, shared with the world a long, glorious, incredulous moment of joy? Of course you have. You are reading the sports pages. You know about joy and, more particularly, you know about a joy shared with a billion others.
Oh, I’ll never forget it, never, and it lasted only 9.69 seconds as Usain Bolt boogied his way to the gold medal in the 100 metres at the Olympic Games in Beijing last year.
I was there in the stadium, among the 91,000 who shared that gasp of disbelief — that long, head-wagging, blaspheming protest against the evidence of one’s own senses, then that realisation that the impossible dreams of humankind had been possibilised before our 182,000 eyes.
With the exultant beauty of the emotions in the stadium came the certainty that they would be duplicated across the time zones and the political boundaries, across the oceans and over the mountain ranges; that in a billion homes and bars and informal public places across the world, the same sporting miracle would have been celebrated in the same way. For a few brief seconds, the world was united in joy.
And, of course, there was Yelena’s night, when Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole vaulter, brought a bed into the stadium so she could lie down while her rivals squabbled among themselves for the minor placings. Then, majestically, she cast her covers aside, won the competition — and then set about the Yelena Show.
In the course of an hour, in which time she pouted and tried on a sarong, she set an Olympic record and then a world record at 5.05 metres. It was a night on which the world discovered that there are few things better than watching a beautiful woman leap the height of a house, higher than any woman has gone before. It was a triumph of ambition, athleticism, skill, determination and sheer beauty.
And all of these, especially the last, are things that terrorism is opposed to.
Sport isn’t the most important thing in the world. Its very point is that it doesn’t matter at all. But it can be the vector for things such as truth and beauty, youth and hope, unity and joy — and when the terrorists turned their rocket launchers on sport, they declared war on all these things.Few of us really know what these people are for. But they have made it very clear what they are against.
Read it in full here