Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the last day of the games




Afganistan stays in the news. A major source of opiates, Afganistan is one of the wildest places on earth. Guarding the historic trade routes between Europe and India, The Hindu Kush is home to some of the fiercest soldiers on the planet.
In 1979, the Soviet Union decided that it wanted a war with Afganistan. This conflict lasted ten years, and the Mighty Soviets lost. This was during the Cold War,and the United States wanted to do everything it could to hurt the Soviets, whom it considered an enemy. The Afgani forces fighting the Soviets recieved much aid from the United States, which was very helpful in its ultimate success.
The defeat in Afganistan was a factor in the dismantling of the Soviet Union that happened soon after. Soon, the rebel factions began to fight each other for the right to rule the country, using the weapons given them by the United States. Eventually the Taliban won, and set up shop.
On September 11, 2001, The United States was attacked. Credit for the attack was given to Al Queda, which was based in Afganistan. To avenge this attack, Afganistan was invaded by the United States. We are still there.

Now, this feature is not about the wisdom of attacking a fiece people, for the purposes of revenge. It is not about the future of our occupation there, or in neighboring Iraq. It is about the Olympics.
In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Olympics. On the last day of the games, the Men's Marathon was run.
The Marathon course went out Peachtree from downtown, and turned around near the end of the 23 Oglethorpe busline, in front of the funeral home. It then turned right, and went down Lanier Drive beside Oglethorpe University. It went down the street a couple of blocks, turned around in front of Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church( a former employer of mine), and came back to Peachtree. The runners turned right, went down to the Olympic Stadium south of downtown.
Now, being the slack person that I am, I had not gotten tickets to any Olympic events. The Marathon was a free event, and was walking distance from my residence. This was my last chance.
When I got there, I was amazed at the instant community that had assembled along the course. This remarkable event was almost over, and this was all I was going to see of it! The fact that it is more than many others saw was little comfort.
I walked alongside the course, and crossed Lanier Drive. This is important to the rest of the story.
The runners were a bit of an anticlimax. A pack of men in track uniforms, with the leaders in a bunch at the start. They ran past, went to the end of the course, down Lanier Drive, and hustled down Peachtree to the end of the race.
After the second appearance of the bulk of the runners, I was ready to go. However, there was a glitch. One runner was way behind the rest of the pack, and I could not cross Lanier Drive until he had gone by, and the course was opened for pedestrian traffic.
The last runner was from Afganistan.
After a few minutes, he appeared. He had a large bandage on one leg, which apparently had been injured.
He finished the race.
Now, I could not run 26 miles if I was 100 percent. The Afgan ran the marathon with an injured leg, albeit 20 minutes behind the rest of the pack.


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