- Don't Cry Korea!
- By Shin Dong-ho, Editorial Writer
The one implies a "competition based on gender equality" as this is the first time in the history of the Olympic Games when all the sports and participating countries include female competitors; the other indicates the hopes from the organizers that this be more of a feast of creative minds and touching emotions than of a mere competition for medals.
Both correspond well with the Olympian spirit advocated by Pierre de Coubertin who said, "The important thing, in the Olympic Games, is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."
But that does not mean that taking part is easy. Let us look at the story behind Team Korea's campaign theme, "From London To London 1948-2012." 64 years ago when its independence movement was the most important national agenda, participating in the London Olympics then constituted another major movement for founding the nation.
In 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, at a time when Korea was still under the colonial occupation by Japan, Sohn Kee-chung crosses the finish line first, with a uniform that distinctly carried the Japanese national flag. / Yonhap News
For a country that had not yet been recognized as a full independent state, it was not easy to take part in the Olympic Games. Jeon Kyeong-moo, vice chairman of the Olympic Taskforce, died in an airplane crash accident on his way to Stockholm for approval, the general meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The situation inside Korea was tough, too. There was no country name agreed upon until one month before the Games.
The old Korea had used the name Joseon, with different arrangements of eight trigrams in the national flag. After many twists and turns, Sohn Kee-chung, the gold medal winner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, finally entered the stadium with Taegeukgi, the Korean national flag, as the flag-bearer of Team Korea and he was overwhelmed by the experience.
In the London Olympics today, we see one Olympian who reminds us of the joys and sorrows 64 years ago, before we had a proper government: Guor Marial, a marathoner from the Republic of South Sudan.
South Sudan separated itself from Sudan and became an independent state in July 2011. According to IOC regulations, this new-born country cannot participate in the Olympics this year: minimum 2 years are required before any new member country to take part in the Games.
The IOC offered him to run for his native Sudan but Marial refused the offer and said, "I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people." He will still run, as an "Independent Olympic Athlete" carrying the Olympic flag.
While the Games nowadays can easily turn into a show-off competition of national and commercial powers, Marial's participation inspires a different kind of emotion within us. I would like to see a radiant smile on his face, as much as I would like to see Team Korea fighting the games with confidence. Don't cry, Marial! Don't cry, Korea!