“Sports and art? Those don’t really go together.” Well, sure they do. I realized this more than ever last night at the Oslo Bislett Games.
Walking through central Oslo, passing flower shops, residential buildings, and grocery stores, I approached the large, round, concrete stadium. National flags waved high above the entrance. Families and children gathered outside a window to sneak a peek of the magnificent athletes powering over a high jump bar. Inside the stadium the crowds were roaring, flags were waving, and the athletes were performing at their best.
Entering the stadium, I opted to stand just beside the podium where the athletes walked. The discus throwers right in front of me. Watching two time Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic prepare, build momentum, and launch the discus across the field was a beautiful sight, but so were her emotions. The moment captured in Discobolus of Myron might be a historic object with many parallels and embody many emotions, but watching the full process of Perkovic from beginning to end of her victory was astonishing. At first she was focused, deeply focused, taking careful steps to warm up her body and control her mind – moving to an almost mechanical like state once in the cage, letting her body, training, and confidence perform. Then her reaction. Waiting for the discus to land, she was hyper focused, and would then let out an expression of anger, satisfaction, or pleasure once the results came in. When she was announced the champion, she simply let out a modest smile – because she is a champion, and this is only but one feat.
As the evening went on I was able to see some amazing athletes perform. The stands were oozing with excitement, and the athletes were each calm and confident. After a victory, the winner would jog around the front of the track greeting fans, and signing children’s shirts or papers.
About halfway through the evening, Norway’s hometown boy, twenty year old Karsten Warholm stole the stage. As the fresh faced young man got into his starting blocks, I could feel the anxiety building – when they announced his name, the crowd roared. The start gun shot off and the men blasted over the first hurdle, as they disappeared down the track it was hard to keep track of who was where – but as the stagger evened out coming into the last 100m, the crowd went wild. Warholm was in the lead, and kept it. Perhaps it was all natural ability, or maybe a bit of help from his energetic fans, he pulled through. It will be very exciting to watch him in his journey to athletic fame, because he is certainly one to watch.
(Officials checking the field.)
(Warholm nodding “thank you” to the young girls dressed in Bunad on the podium.)
Finishing out the evening was my personal favorite runner, Olympic medalist Dafne Schippers. There was a bit of a scuffle as she had a false start in the 200m race, but the officials allowed her to re-start because she wasn’t able to hear the gun due to the loud stadium. They allowed to to re-enter. When the race went off, her muscular physique blasted around the course, and she was victorious. Schippers is just “cool.” She’s confident, she’s beautiful, and she’s unique. She almost always wins, and she always has the same sort of simple smile.
As they presented her with her flowers and medal, she smiled, and exited the stage. They asked her to come back up because they had a special award for her, she accepted it, smiled, and left again. They called her back a third time, and a young girl sang happy birthday to her. The entire time she just seemed grateful, and focused – never fazed.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s the athletes themselves and genetics we admire, or their strong minds that push them to incredible lengths.
The mechanical and seasoned focus of Sandra Perkovic, the excitement and hope in young Karsten Warholm, and the pleasant yet unfazed demeanor of Dafne Schippers. All champions, all performers, and all calling into question, what is “it” that intrigues us?
Art and athletics are both the creation and expression of human emotion(s) through a passionate physical performance. The intensity, passion, and motivation to depict feelings or convey a message; the motivation to execute a performance using the body. Both art and athletics gather groups of people who gather to watch – to take part in understanding the expression or meaning.