Dreaming gold for Tibet

Ugyen Gyalpo

Ugyen Gyalpo

By Ugyen Gyalpo

NEW YORK, US, 8 August 2016

It was the summer of 1988 when I first watched my first Olympics held at Seoul on a colour television. A rarity and an opulence, only a handful of people in the village I grew up in owned such a thing. The village mushroomed up on a face of a hill that plateaued on Chowrasta, a retreat-able gathering place, where six roads met and where the sun-scorched, stressed denizens of the Indian plains come to soak in the pleasant cool sun with its fresh pine breeze.

As new as I was to this epic event, the adrenaline it pumped far dwarfed the inconvenience of the small stools we had to carry for ourselves to sit for the hours-long onset of the games. A small cozy welcoming neighbour’s living room with a color TV, would quickly crowd up with occasional applause and cheers from the sports-loving people of my hood.

I felt instantly in love with the opening ceremony, and when India, my place of birth, would parade, a sense of joy and belonging would rush to my face. US and Australia were the other two countries I would feel automatically attracted to, and I would applaud on their arrivals just as well. Truth be told, I was little taken aback when teams from Great Britain would arrive, probably because of its historical hegemony and brutality over the place of my birth and the indifference they showed to our leader Gandhi who we worshipped!

Perhaps I was too young to actually feel what I have been feeling for many years now. And every four years, it would rattle just as loud and just as painful, as I see rivers of nations with different names, join the vast ocean and my identity, my civilization buried like some fossilized remains that I find floating in fragments all over.

The Olympics now appeared to me more than just mere games. It was a show of identity, presence, and above all dignity of a nation. The Olympics became a synonym of freedom, grace, and respect, that my identity under the brink of extinction starved and yearned for.

Like many, I would daydream, imagining Tibetans as competing athletes and parading with our Snow Lion flag. I would imagine the kind of sports that high-altitude Tibetans would excel at, and bring home the gold in fantasy.

I wish the Olympics had its set of rules, where not only state-sponsored drug users would be banned from the games, but also abusers of fundamental human rights. Where countries such as China would not be able to come up on the podium and the billion viewers watch their flag hoisted and hear their national anthem, the lyrics of which sugar coat decades of injustice and brutalization of its own people. Just as this proud moment for the athlete, the image of that totalitarian country, is unfairly given a face lift onto the screens of televisions sets worldwide, while funerals, self-immolations, and political prisoners’ organs harvesting are buried into their tragic conscience. Even the very moment the Chinese flags are hoisted for the goodwill and in tune with the harmony of the Olympics spirit, the founders of the game, I believe probably had a purer, nobler intention and a vision to create unity, strength between the nations and above all set higher standards of qualifications, based on racial equality, respect for human rights, and tolerance of cultural and religious sentiments.

All I wish for is that the Olympics committee would, just as they can officially bring the whole globe into one stadium, reinforce messages of human rights and and end to totalitarianism everywhere and at anytime, and make that their slogan before peace, because peace will follow suit when those things are given precedence.

As I watched this swimmer hit the last lap, I can’t help but cheer when the sportsman in me rises up. I see within myself a 12-year-old boy freed from childish innocence and how I now watch the games with different perspective and meaning.

About the author

Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.

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