It was the summer of 1988 during the Olympic games in Seoul, Korea. Many Canadians’ interest was focused on one event: the 100m. In the search for the title of “the fastest man on earth,” Canadians were focused on one man: Ben Johnson. Our hero. A Canadian who would do great things: win a gold medal; perhaps even set a new world record.
The day of the race came. How many Canadians did not stop what they were doing to watch that race? It was over in seconds. A gold medal for Canada. A new world record. I remember the joy, the lump in my throat, the pride of being Canadian – winners carried across the finish line on one man’s shoulders. Many normally staid Canadians expressed patriotic sentiments and visibly showed their pride. He was ours. He was the fastest. Therefore, we were the fastest!
Only hours later word came of a failed drug test. Doping. Steroids. Cheating. Ben Johnson became an instant scoundrel and a liar. And … he wasn’t really from Canada, you know. He was Jamaican. The Jamaican sprinter running for Canada who tarnished our image. Euphoria to anger. Hero to villain. In a matter of hours.
Sure, disappointment and grief are powerful emotions that have to be managed somehow. It is also true that crowds do not think. It is in the nature of mobs to react, not to reflect.
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