Shameful contrast

FILE - In a March 9, 2005 file photo a firefighter runs through the blast site after a garbage truck exploded near a hotel used by western contractors in central Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban/file)

More than a billion people turned their eyes toward London Friday to enjoy the spectacular opening of the Olympic Games, a display of joyousness and celebrations that signal how the world becomes, for the space of a few weeks, a global village.

Seven years of preparations and $13 billion went into the international event, which gathers more than 10,000 competitors from 205 countries.

The newly built Olympic stadium in East London hosted 60,000 spectators for the proceedings, while an equal number gathered in Hyde Park to hold their own celebration, cheering and singing amid a festive atmosphere free of incident.

The statistics were available for anyone interested to learn how many thousand athletes, members of the media, pieces of luggage, or various types of equipment were assembled for the Olympics.

In the Arab world, meanwhile, people were engaged in a very different kind of statistical endeavor, namely following the latest figures of bloodshed and destruction in a number of countries.

From tribal battles in Somalia and Yemen, to the latest developments in the Palestinian territories, and tension in Bahrain and Lebanon, bombings in Iraq, as well as the ongoing bloody uprising in Syria, the catalogue was one of misery and devastation, and not the joy being shared by the rest of the world.

Most countries have put strife and killing behind them and move forward with endeavors in the realms of athletic competitions, culture and the arts and science.

In the Arab world, the competition that attracts the efforts of politicians, and drains national resources, often involves obtaining weapons of all shapes and sizes.

In other parts of the world, people spend their time trying to shatter the borders that divide them, while in this part of the world, people are busy erecting and fortifying their borders, of various types.

Elsewhere, strides are made toward unity, while in the Arab world efforts are made to sow division and increase fragmentation, based on religion, sect and color.

Elsewhere, people realize that competition should take place in a civilized manner, and that people’s talents should be enhanced and celebrated.

In this part of the world, societies remain mired in the Dark Ages, where strength is equal to destructive power, and where some politicians and regimes are engaged in an all-out race to develop the most brutal forms of torture and oppression, or undertaking a seemingly deliberate drive to impoverish entire populations.

The Olympic spectacle might be criticized as a frivolous affair by some, but it crowns a serious endeavor of civilized athletic competition, and allowing people to realize their capabilities. Massive resources are put at the disposal of the people, and the end result represents something good for all. In this part of the world, in so many cases, the most energetic race is one that takes people backward, and not forward.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 28, 2012, on page 7.




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