David Bowie passed away on January 10. He has little to do with the Olympics. In fact, he turned down a request to perform at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 London Games. But like all great artists, he at times wrote and performed songs that tapped into the psyche and sometimes the soul of people the world over. So much elsewhere so much more eloquently has been written about Bowie’s unique connection to the “other”, the “outsider”, the “weird”.
But this is a blog about The Olympics. While Bowie’s song Heroes was the one that reverberated through Olympic Stadium when Team Great Britain ended the march of Olympians at the London Games, I suppose that “Under Pressure”, with Queen brings to fore the force that turns legs into jelly, or heroes into legends.
Pressure. To withstand it. To convert it into energy. To find within oneself a momentary act of creation unseen to that moment. That can be the difference maker. And the way athletes deal with pressure differs from person to person. Here’s a fascinating explanation provided by an anonymous Olympian, who wrote the book “Secret Olympian“.
I have this horrible feeling in my gut. A deep primal fear is swallowing me up – a desire to run, to be any where but here. For a minute I find myself envying Chimp. Having missed out he can sit at home and watch the racing. He isn’t being judged today. No burning physical pain for him. Next my envy turns to another British teammate who has a deep and unwavering Christian faith and believes that whatever happens it is God’s will. Whatever will be, will be. Must be immensely comforting to have the outcome in a higher power’s hands.
To my left, Jamie reads his history book avidly. He prefers to distract himself until a few brief minutes before we start our physical warm-up. To my right, another teammate is plugged into his music and stares unseeing ahead of him. In his mind’s eye he is rehearsing the race. He doesn’t blink.
We are taking on the best in the world. They’re trained for thousands of hours in their secretive foreign systems. Some are physiological freaks, far off the chart from normal. Others are legends in the sport, world record holders, previous Olympic champions or up and coming World Junior Champions. But what is most disconcerting, having seen them all practicing, is that none of the competition looks scared in the least. They radiate confidence, focus and professionalism. I can smell no trace of fear on them. I hope I hid mine this past week.
Here is Under Pressure, but only the beautiful vocals of Bowie and Mercury.