Michael Phelps failed to finish on the podium in 400 meters individual medley, as the London Olympics captured the entire planet through a techno-cultural spectacle.
We are talking about Phelps, who is arguably the greatest swimmer this century and definitely one of the greatest athlete that has taken to the pool. We are talking about a person who has astounding 14 gold medals at the Olympics, five clear of Larissa Latynina, Paavo Nurmi, Mark Spitz, and Carl Lewis – all holding a class of their own.
It wasn’t a shock that Phelps didn’t win gold. It was a shock that he finished fourth. Most sports aficionados were shocked that Phelps was left behind by Ryan Lochte – the man who got the gold – in butterfly, which has been considered Phelps’ domain, a style that he’s been the strongest at.
That’s sport for you. You can’t always be at your best. A man of 6ft 4in height and an arm span three inches greater – which gave him an edge over other swimmers for years – looked diminutive in his defeat, an athlete looking past his prime.
This is where politics is different to sports. A sport is about physical capability, apart from mental. And this is perhaps where sports and politics are similar too. It’s about endurance, about perseverance and about staying at the top of your game all the time. It’s about remaining popular by being at the top of your acumen, all along.
It was 2008, the year of Beijing; the year of Olympics, when Phelps was at the top of the world, scaling Everestesque 8 gold medals. Pushpa Kamal Dahal in Nepal was climbing the stairs of Nepali polity – nearing the peak, if not reached it already. It was 2008, the year of the elections – of the promised but never formed Constituent Assembly. PKD aka Prachanda was seen as the savior of people, the man who championed the causes of marginalized, the man who was to deliver on the promises this nation held forever, the man who would take everyone – the dalits, the downtrodden, the outcasts – towards a nation of prosperity.
It is 2012, the year of London; the year of Olympics, when Phelps is climbing down, beaten in his own domain, the pool. Pushpa Kamal Dahal finds himself in a strange predicament, questioning himself – Did I do it right? Four years down the line, Constituent Assembly has fallen down; expired; dissolved; dead. It is down in dumps, for it did not deliver what it was supposed to. Nepal remains without a completed constitution. PKD aka Prachanda is seen as an opportunist, by his own party cadres. His party has formed a committee to investigate his property, along with others. His party is in government, but he doesn’t call all the shots. It has announced a date for election. But most are not convinced, it would be held on announced date. The marginalized, whom he was to escort to prosperity, complain of being ditched, left unattended.
Dahal’s party has already seen a lot of turmoil in recent past, which has taken off some charm off him. The party split is never easy, if you’re the top leader. It always takes away the comrades – who once vowed to die for you – and makes them your opponent. That’s the reason why charm vanishes, after such incidents. One has to understand that Dahal has been at the top position of the party for more than 2 decades. It gets lonely at the top. Everybody start looking like foes. Friends appear distant from the top. A reason why he’s avoided a General Convention of the party for the entire duration he’s been the party chief. A clear indication of trusted comrades not really being ‘trusted’.
His party, the UCPN (Maoist), has announced general convention for February next year. That itself is likely to take away his sleep for the last quarter of this year. For leading a party of disgruntled cadres is not an easy option. For he’s been accused already of ‘defecting’ to the luxuries of capitalism. For he’s already accused of thinking of self more than the party.
It is not what it was four years ago. Not rosy anymore. It’s about harsh reality. It’s about Nepal still trudging below the GDP growth rate of less than 5 percent. It’s about remittance still driving the country, also meaning people are keen to go out of the country than stay here – just to make ends meet.
2012 is so different from 2008. It was about promises then. It is about unfulfilled promises now. So much can change from Beijing to London. Beijing then, wasn’t about Mao. London now, isn’t about imperialism.
PS: The write-up appeared in a fortnightly published from Australia – The Kantipur Times – on 1 August 2012