With an overhead shot from around the baseline landing outside the court, his dream and with that, a Malaysian collective dream, ended. His opponent, dark, muscular and almost brooding, leapt in the air, turned around and ran around the court, with his arm opened wide as if he was going to take off the ground.
Dato’ Lee Chong Wei gave his best. The Malaysian spectators at the venue shouted and screamed in unison. But luck wasn’t with Dato’ Lee. Nothing much separated the two players, really. It was a gladiatorial match. An epic. The best badminton match I had ever had the pleasure of watching.
There were moments during the match when I saw moves which were almost non-human in nature. Impossible speed, almost Spider-man like agility, the will and power of men possessed with an ultimate dream, an ultimate hope to win the ultimate prize.
At one point of time, I wondered how is it to feel the weight of the hope and wish of 28 million people on one’s tiny shoulder. How does one man deal with that? How does one man carry himself knowing every move of his might disappoint 28 million people? What is in his head every time he raises his racquet to serve, to smash and to return a drop shot?
I have nothing but admiration and pride for Dato’ Lee Chong Wei and all our Olympians. For all their sacrifices, their hard works, their pains, blood, sweat and tears, dispensed in the name of national glory.
The Olympics, like any other mammoth sporting events, bring out the best and the worst in us. And the comical too.
Right after the opening ceremony, there were rumblings of how the Illuminati were at work to take over the world in the Malaysian cyber-space. Clearly some of us have really fertile imaginations. Or perhaps some of us Malaysian Muslims were just showing signs of low blood sugar level during this fasting month. And so we read about the Olympic tree being a tree which in Muslim traditions, is a tree which is sympathetic to the Jews, for example. I even received a private message on Facebook telling me that a certain Prince is the manifestation of the anti-Christ. So I suppose, this phenomenon is not restricted to the Muslims only.
Then there are people – politicians, of course - who don’t seem to know that there are moments when humanity takes over and politics don’t seem to matter. Astounding as it may be, believe it or not, there was a twit by an opposition MP saying that Malaysia will win a gold medal in the Olympics after Pakatan Rakyat “takes over Putrajaya.” Good then. Put that in their party manifesto and ask the people to vote for them in the next GE with that promise. And while we are at it, how about telling the people that Malaysia will win the football World Cup too after Pakatan takes over whatever? Just so to complete the absurdity, tell us that the middle-east conflict will be ended by Pakatan too please.
The positive side of this is the fact that Malaysians will sit together in unison to support the quest of our country-men regardless of our faith, our race, breed and creed. To my mind, unity manifests itself in two forms, namely, situational unity and transcendental unity. We experience situational unity in every aspect of our daily life. The ultimate task for the government is to foster these situational harmony into a more permanent and cohesive unity.
Malaysians have always loved sports. And as far as I could remember, sports have always been the highlight of Malaysian unity. Never in any other act have Malaysians displayed so much loyalty, faith and unity than sporting events. I am old enough to remember how all of us watched with pride when our national football team played in the 1972 Munich Olympics. How we jumped in rapturous joy when James Wong scored against South Korea to send Malaysia to the 1980 Olympics. How the whole Malaysia was transfixed when we hosted the 1975 Hockey World Cup. And in recent times, Malaysians will of course fill with pride every time Dato’ Nicol David or Dato’ Lee Chong Wei win their respective tournament.
That proves that when faced with one ultimate – and common - aim and purpose, a people of diverse cultures, faiths, and interests as well as of different race may set aside whatever differences they may have, whatever misgivings they may habour against each other and unite.
Our task, in terms of trying to foster unity and harmony, is to create that ONE aim and purpose. I suppose, we can begin by eliminating, or trying to eliminate, anything which threatens to divide us.
Or perhaps, we could just start by showing up at the airport to give a rousing homecoming to Dato’ Lee Chong Wei and our Olympians.