Suddenly and in darkness, an immense white flag unfurled,
traveled down the side of the stadium, and passed over the
heads of the athletes and delegates standing in the center.
Once all were safely ensconced under its protective shield,
a single dove holding an olive branch in her beak appeared
on the white expanse.
The dove and the olive branch, symbols of peace and reconciliation
were not the only symbols projected here. The five Olympic
rings, representing the Americas, Asia, Australia, Africa,
and Europe, likewise spread over the heads of the Olympian
field. These rings, interlocking and overlapping, symbolize
a world of peaceful, supportive unity.
In a world still ravaged by war, by racism, by poverty, can
we realistically continue to hope for unity? As I watched
the opening ceremonies broadcasted from the Olympic Stadium
in Sydney last year, I asked myself that question, and what
I decided was the following: if we analyze the less overt
symbols, those more subtle than a dove, an olive branch, five
clustered rings, those subtle symbols of change, then I believe
the answer is an unequivocal, courageous, and resounding "yes."
After years of tumult, torture, war, of scouring the DMZ,
of blood and sorrow, North Korea and South Korea were able
to lay their differences aside long enough to march into the
stadium together during the parade of nations. A representative
of each country proudly shared the flag - four hands waving
it to the cheering crowd. Interestingly, one representative
was a man and one a woman further symbolizing the reunification
of disparate factions.
This moment was not the only one in which women were recognized.
All the final torch bearers, the ones who passed the torch
within the stadium itself, were celebrated Olympic athletes,
and all of them (are you ready for this?)...all of them
were women. With this move, the Australian organizers recognized
women's contributions to and excellence in athletics. I was
particularly thrilled to see this moment after recently listening
to a drunk man at a Dodger game slur that the WNBA is boring
and, therefore, must be banned.
Finally, as the torch was passed on its last leg, it was
passed into the hands of Australian runner Cathy Freeman.
Much like America's dissension between Native Americans and
the white intruder, Australia has a long history of turmoil
between the Aborigines and their white population. Freeman,
an Aborigine who has succeeded in the white world through
her success as a runner, has done much to heal the tensions
and bridge the distance between the two groups. As she took
the torch, carried it up the white steps, and lit the cauldron,
I thought back to a scene in the earlier musical production
when little Nikki Webster and a painted Aborigine stood on
top of a set designer's pyramid and held hands.
Shakespeare once described peace as "naked, poor, and
mangled." If the opening ceremonies in Australia last
year showed us anything of truth, I would say peace has recently
received an endowment to buy a new wardrobe and take advantage
of the newest techniques in plastic surgery.