Olympians

GRANTED, commercialism was rampant. Agreed, the line between amateur and professional is blurred. Yes, there were suspicions about blood-doping. But something still rang true in Calgary. It's worth remembering that only a small fraction of the 1,800 athletes gathered there left with medals. Was it all heartbreak and failure for the rest?

Hardly. They came out of a love for sport, a desire to represent their countries, and a feeling that these few weeks of competition and community with people from other parts of the world would be among the most memorable of their lives. Those hopes were fulfilled.

Back home, we're left with indelible vignettes: Pirmin Zurbriggen careening toward the finish in the downhill; the Jamaican bobsledders waving and smiling after a hair-raising crash; a gutsy Finnish hockey team beating the Soviet aces after the latter had already sewn up the gold; Elizabeth Manley, Canadian silver medalist in figure skating, saying she'd skated for the pure enjoyment of it. Her attitude sparkled through a flawless few minutes on the ice and touched the heart of what Olympic competition should be.

Despite the glitz, the overlay of nationalism, the grumbling over state-run programs in some East-bloc nations, the Olympics remain a celebration of individual accomplishment.

The negative things demand attention. So does the enduring point in all this: Winning in fact isn't everything; it's competing that counts.

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