[FORUM]Being No. 1 not most importantWhen a year is passing by, one tends to reminisce about the past. Many thoughts cross my mind, but one particular memory remains: Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima. Who is he? Most people probably have forgotten this name, but he is the Brazilian who won the bronze in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens this summer. Mr. de Lima was leading the 42 km race up to the 37km point when he was pushed aside by an eccentric ex-priest in the crowd and lost his lead. Mr. de Lima was pushed aside for a period of less than 10 seconds but, because it is virtually impossible for a marathon runner to regain his pace after such an interruption, he lost his place to the Italian runner who was behind him.
How precious is an Olympic gold medal to a marathon runner? Mr. de Lima must have been angry and upset about the whole incident. With the onward rush of globalization, the difference between being number one and being anyone else has become all the more important. In this era of global competition where only the fittest survive, being number two often means losing terribly. In order to live through these tough times, we must always aim to be number one in our industry, trade and technology. The key to survival in modern society is developing a competitive edge. In the spirit of this competitive era, Mr. de Lima should have tried to regain his lost gold medal no matter what.
When the demand for a second gold medal for Mr. de Lima was turned down by the International Olympic Committee, the Brazilian athletic delegation declared that it would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. However, Mr. de Lima proved he had a heart worthy of gold after the games were over.
When asked by journalists whether he thought he could have won had he not be pushed, he replied, “I can’t say whether I would have won the gold medal or not, but it certainly caused me a lot of trouble. However, the important thing is that I overcame myself according to the spirit of the Olympics and that I could give my country Brazil a medal.”
Mr. de Lima also said that no one should be blamed for this incident.
“No one [should be blamed]. The Olympic Games were hosted successfully and such incidents could have happened at any place. However, measures should be taken so that there are no more cases like mine.”
Is Mr. de Lima a saint or a simpleton? Let’s think of it this way. Had he kept on insisting that he should have won the gold, he might have gained pity from the viewers but he would not have touched the hearts of millions of viewers such as me around the world. In place of a gold medal, Mr. de Lima was given the Pierre De Coubertin medal by the International Olympic Committee for his “exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values.”
Mr. de Lima’s words make me wonder if this might not be the way to resolve the tension and strife in our politics. One example would be the issue of whether to abolish the National Security Law or not. The two parties have gone over the law several times and reviewed the issue points over and over and know perfectly well what the other side is thinking and will do. The fruit is ripe and all we have to do is pick it. Whether we are going to abolish, revise or supplement the law, consensus among all parties is important.
If the law was born through the irrational bullying of the government and was resented because of its connection with human rights abuses and tyranny in the past, we should send it off on its way with no regrets through a fair process. As intense as the contention between the governing party and the opposition is the strife within the governing party. President Roh Moo-hyun has told his party members that the four major legislative bills including the National Security Law should be reviewed with sufficient time and dialogue. I welcome the fact that the president has emphasized taking sufficient time to review it before acting. The president needs to stay a step away from an “all-or-nothing political battle” he has been engaged in and concentrate on economic problems this year.
There is another memory that keeps on coming back to my head. This year, an executive of the JoongAng Ilbo hosted a party for company workers who were very ill. There were various parties and meetings, but this was a special party that invited all the spouses of the patients who must have suffered taking care of their loved ones. There was a husband who agonized over the serious illnesses that affected his wife and son. There was a wife whose husband was hospitalized for a serious illness, but was later told by the doctor that the initial diagnosis was wrong. The dinner was all the more impressive because the participants were in some ways met with challenges. In this world where no one but number one matters, let’s start the new year with a more relaxed mind.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Joseph W. Chung