It happens almost every time. Until the last days of the countdown, the air and airwaves are filled with questions. Sochi was no exception.

Even into the single-digit countdown to the commencement of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, more bets were on failure than success. There were fears, there were furious protests. There were budget frowns, and there were natural teething fumbles with infrastructure. There were invisible rings, and there were incredible rounds of critique around R.O.I. And all around it, there was the ring of steel, trying to keep Sochi safely out of the global headlines for all the wrong reasons.

And somewhere, lost in it all, was the athletes.

Arriving with years of training, praying and whole-hearted hope tucked tightly in their luggage and bags of precious sporting gear, the athletes make their way to their temporary sporting home – the Athlete’s Village, soon towards the most important sporting stage of their lives, and maybe, just maybe, to the sacred steps of the medal winner’s podium. Whether it is the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, whatever the meg-event may be, the intensity of training and personal passion can never be underestimated. For the athletes, this is it – this is the moment they have waited for their entire life. Wearing the colour of their flag, their home, the blessing and burden of ambassadorship on their shoulders and hearts, they come, ready to perform, ready to turn their dreams into a reality.

And yet, over and over, event after event, the athletes become swallowed up by the waves of unfortunate doubt and debate, waves that robbed the event’s build up in excitement, energy and unity, as they so deserved. It happened in Sochi, as it did South Africa in 2010, and  in London in 2012, and it will no doubt happen in Rio.

And then suddenly the shift occurred.

As the Olympic cauldron began to glow with the heat of the flame and passionate quests for gold, the spirit of the games, the true spirit of the Olympic Games, was unlocked. From the ski slopes to the catwalks, it was all about all things Russian. Suddenly Sochi was sexy. And Sochi was safe, secure, full of the awe and addictive competitive watching that makes mega-events so must-see. Mother Nature, the global media and all managing to be in sport’s momentary centre of the universe made sure the world was watching in envy and in full support.

As the curtain fell on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, with the host nation showing its sense of pride, and sense of humour, in its final showcase of why Russia was the ultimate winner of gold at these Games, as was reported by journalists covering the spectacle, initial fears and concerns, challenges and chirps, all seemed “a distant memory”.

Sochi, and Russia, did it.

And now it is time to celebrate the world’s winter Paralympics as they take to the Sochi sporting stage. Following that, it will be Russia’s chance to host F1 from October 2014 until 2020. And in 2018, FIFA will bring the World Cup to Russian shores and football fields.

Not to mention all that is ahead for Rio and Brasil as they host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and then 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. And Qatar as they prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In all cases, in all mega-events, the marathon efforts made by the organising committees prove, time and again, to be the greatest challenges, and greatest sources of pride, of their careers. Not to mention the lifelong quest of the athletes.

Which begs the question: why does it take the watching world so long to switch on the spirit of the event?

Why, only in the last days and hours, is the spirit unlocked? And the focus of the event – the world’s best athletes – deprived of global support until the finish line of the event’s start is in short-range sight.

Why is the spirit of the moment left to the last moment?

As with the supreme athletes and organisers that take part in making mega-events such global sensations, audiences worldwide must find it within themselves to dig deep, believe in the impossible, mute nay-sayers, and do what it takes to turn dreams into reality. The venues and essential infrastructure are the responsibility of the organising committee. The medals are the responsibility of the athletes.

But it does not end there. The release valve of mega-event spirit is the responsibility of global audiences! And the sooner, the better.

So so much better!!



Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014