I began to think that many of the stories from the Olympics and the idea of the Olympic spirit was hyperbole. But it’s not. The Olympic Spirit is actually a thing, it exists and it permeates everyone. On Friday we had tickets for indoor volleyball. The first match was Serbia versus China and the Serbs were impressive. The next match was Argentina versus Camaroon; both winless in their first Olympics.
Knowing we had 2 more events and that time was tight, I figured we’d catch a bit of the 1st set then leave. Then Camaroon entered the arena, exuberant and infectious. The arena erupted at their dance moves in warm-ups and the raw energy on display. It would be 2 hours before we left.
The game was not one of excellent volleyball skill or strategy but it was filled with passion. If you did not know their records, you would have thought you were watching a gold medal match. No one would concede a point; making plays that seemed impossible.
Now I’ve been to some great sporting events like the Super Bowl and the World Series. This volleyball match, between two winless teams, is one of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever been a part. 5 games. A six point rally by Argentina to win game 5 and the match.
But it was Camaroon and their dozen brightly clad fans in the stands. It was their absolute zeal after a teammate made a seemingly impossible play. But it was their Usain Bolt pose after every huge block that made the crowd roar and cameras click.
When the ball hit the floor for the final time, the jubilation and despair of each player unfolded on the court. The crowd, half which were Argentine, the rest from all over the world but pulling for Camaroon were still standing, clapping, and cheering in devout appreciation of what just occurred.
A day later, while talking to another spectator on the subway about volleyball, I mentioned this game. A lady turned, raised her hands to her temples and exclaimed in staggered English, “Argentina-Camaroon— yes, I was there… oh my god, what a game.”
Yes, I was there too. I came to Rio, excited to chant USA and waive the Stars and Stripes. But I found myself chanting Cam-A-Roon as respect for brilliant passion. To temporarily join that small, colorful clan in that ideal called the Olympic Spirit.