A Triumphant Memory
Written by Jing Crystal Wu
I had heard that the sky of Athens and the Aegean Sea are so blue and there are many stories to describe the majestic beauty of them. I had always dreamed of visiting Greece; a country with a long memorable history. In 2004, the Olympic Games gave me an opportunity to explore this ancient country and to discern the beauty of it in another vision.
In 2002, I started training to become a runner and I dreamed that one day my name would be printed on the Olympic athlete’s list. After two years of training, I became an adroit athlete and I was able to join the Chinese national team. When the airplane to Athens took off, my dream also took off. The sound of clamor and laughter broke the silence in the cabin and the various voices of the noisemakers filled the air. Eleven hours later, the airplane landed and I felt that my dream had begun. I heard a new kind of language and learned the word “Yasas” which means 「Hello」 in Greek. The animated Olympic volunteers greeted the Chinese national team zealously at the airport and I expeditiously felt their hospitality.
Our national interpreter let me walk with a Greek girl who was a volunteer for the games. Although I couldn’t see the blue sky or the green grass, I felt the breeze blowing in my face, the water tasted alien and the air was heavy with the scent of perfume. Everyone was cheerful and excited to be in another country. The bus was speeding along the highway and we didn’t know when it came to a stop. My teammate told me, 「This is the Olympic village」. “Olympic village,” I thought dubiously, as if it was a dream come true. My guide runner accompanied me to a big building. An Olympics official handed me an athlete’s ID card, “This is our competition permit and you need to show it everywhere you go during the Olympics,” he said. I hung it around my neck with pride and had a vivacious smile on my face.
I received the room key from my coach and found out that I was staying in unit 12, next to the American team. I was eager to see my room and imagined that was going to be very luxurious. However, it was a simple and small room with two beds, one desk and a balcony. There were eight people staying on every floor sharing one public bathroom. It was folksy and unadulterated but we adorned it in our own way. The Chinese national flag was hanging over the outside of our balcony, so it could be seen by everyone.
I had been waiting for this day and thrilled to join this historic event: the Paralympics opening ceremony. It took place in the Olympia’s main stadium on September 17th 2004. Two hundred eighty seven Chinese participants wore white pants, red jackets, and carried red national flags. We were standing in line, shouting our mother country’s name “China”, and jumping up and down with our national flags in our hands. Outside of the stadium, “Where is China?” the host called as he checked the attendance. Two hundred eighty seven Chinese national flags were held up and we answered thunderously “Here!” My heart was pumping hard and my energy was replenished. I heard the main stadium announce 「The People’s Republic of China.」 The deafening applauses and voices repeated “China!” while the Chinese national team entered the main stadium. All the audience stood up waving various flags and clanging cow bells. Everyone was cheering “Hellas! Hellas!” (Which means 「Greece」 in Greek) when the Greek team arrived at the stadium. Although I couldn’t see the Olympic flame burning and rising, I could feel it meant peace, fair play, higher, faster and stronger. We rose when they played the Greek National Anthem. I couldn’t understand the lyrics but I thought the melody was magnificent. The first Olympic Games took place one hundred and eight years earlier in Athens and now it had returned. I was sitting in this ceremony celebrating this historic event with people around the world. I felt that the world had come together peacefully to participate in the Olympic Games and that fighting and war had been forgotten. The Olympic flame would be burning from tonight until September 27.
Three years have passed, and all that remains is just a few fading memories. In 2008, the Olympic flame will be burning in my home country’s sky. Let us look forward to it as a sign of peace, prosperity, progress, and harmony. The memory of the Olympics motivated and inspired me to continue to push myself to succeed. It is a reminder that the frontiers of my abilities have not yet been reached. I will preserve this experience in the lockbox of my memory. Occasionally, I will open the safe to bathe in the warm memory of that event in my life.