An Olympic poem in honour of the athletes

Shakespeare said

all the world’s a stage

and the world’s watching London


I’m watching it

on a television screen

and little snippets I can

sneak in here and there

on my computer

when I’m supposed to be working

I’m not the only one, right?


For two weeks

every four years

the world is watching,



getting inspired


we can’t get enough

of excellence

of seeing one of ours get

awarded with a medal

and hearing that song —

our song

fill the stadium

more goosebumps than I ever got from standing in the cold


then the athletes

come and go

and we say,

“see you in four years”

as if four years

happens as fast

as pressing power on the remote


athletes, you’re on,

but what about all that time

in-between when you’re not on?

toiling away in obscurity,

like this warning sign from Cambridge’s website

to deter all but the most dedicated graduate students,

You will spend long hours in the library working on a topic which on a black day might seem to be of interest to no one else in the world. You should bear in mind that you will probably be poor, and that you will almost certainly have to spend a great deal of time reading material which you find unappetizing in order to master your chosen field.

So British, eh?

no sugar-coating, no beating around the bush

You could substitute gym for library,

training for reading,

and say the same thing

for athletes and their 6 am practices,


and persistence in

repeating the same strokes, lifts, throws, routines,

to be as best as they can be


when the world finally opens its eyes

and all that toiling in darkness

comes into light

and we celebrate with you

because you’re glowing


but what about those times when you do better in the dark?

when you race the fastest

without the pressure of

a million eyes


on and off

aren’t just settings on TV

we take it for granted

you’ll always be around

doing what you love

because that’s what you do, right?

you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer

you’ll always be one


but sometimes this really is


and we probably won’t appreciate

everything you did

until we don’t see you in Rio

because there’s nothing more present

than absence


you’re off the stage

the curtain closes

and our watching turns to remembering.


to all the athletes who toil away in obscurity

to those who shine in the spotlight and those who shine when it’s off

and to those whose last act is London – Clara Hughes, Brent Hayden, Simon Whitfield,

this one’s for you — 

thank you.

by Charlene Kwiatkowski

Clara Hughes. “I really hope that maybe people will remember the way that I did what I did. Not what I did, but the way in which I did it.”

Brent Hayden. “I think tonight was just about digging down deep, right into my soul . . . There are so many times when you dream about something and a million out of a million-and-one times, it won’t come true.”

“Yeah, it was hard. It was hard to see my daughter upset, my wife upset, and I was pretty upset. Ah, that’s life. That means it means something, doesn’t it?”

Let the Names/Games Begin

Recognize this iconic map?

Take a closer look. Transport for London (TfL) has changed the names of its 361 tube stations into the names of Olympic athletes from all different countries and sports to celebrate the Summer Olympics in London beginning next week.

The map groups athletes along different tube lines according to their sport. Distinctions are given for:

  •  Athletes with five or more medals (e.g. swimmers Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz, track athlete Carl Lewis, gymnast Nadia Comaneci)
  •  Renowned athletes who haven’t won a gold medal (e.g. track athletes Zola Budd and Frankie Fredericks)

    Namibia sprinter Frankie Fredericks

  •  Renowned athletes famous for not winning a medal (boxer Roy Jones Jr, long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe)
  •  Athletes who have starred or featured in films (runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire, boxer Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali in Ali)
  • Athletes without a symbol means they have won at least one gold medal (the majority of names on the map)

Simon Whitfield. Photo by John Ulan.

Canada’s flag-bearer and favourite triathlete Simon Whitfield has a presence on the map. Situated at the top of the teal-coloured Waterloo & City line (formerly “Bank” stop), you’ll find “Simon Whitfield.” This Victoria resident won gold in Sydney 2000 (the first time his sport was featured in the Games) and silver in Beijing 2008. Side note: his come-from behind race in Beijing to capture the silver still gives me goosebumps. I secretly hoped I would run into him (get it?) when I lived in Victoria, but alas, our paths never crossed.

Michael Phelps and Muhammad Ali share the highest honour as marking the two entrances to the Games at Stratford and Stratford International.

So if you’re in London for the Olympics (lucky you), you’ll no doubt find yourself hopping on a name to get to the Games.

And because I love the Olympics and have to show my Canadian pride just a bit,