The Bob Beamon Moment

imageOn the afternoon of October 18th 1968, in Mexico City our world was about to witness the “historic moment” of sports history.

The world was bubbling and very revolutionary then. It was the late 60’s and Vietnam, Paris and Prague had all brought people on the streets. Flower power was asserting itself and rebels (with causes) were standing for their rights. Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan were each leading their own revolutionary battles. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated for their respective causes. Then there was the black power movement and only one day before, two black American athletes had been thrown out of the Mexico Olympics for demonstrating the Black Power salute on the medal stand.

On this afternoon Bob Beamon was about to participate in the Long Jump Final. The world record had moved 22 cms in 33 years, since the record jump of Jesse Owens. Beamon was lucky to get through, as he had two foul jumps in the semis and just scraped through on the third. No one, literally no one in the world, could predict what was about to go down.

On the first jump, Beamon took a deep breath and tore down the track, hit the board perfectly and soared into the air, landing deep and for a split second his bottom grounded, cutting inches out of his jump. Nevertheless, despite this reverse, the jump clearly was long. It was so long that the automatic tape measure was unable to authenticate this number. So a manual measure was done, which took some 20 minutes of confirmation. When the result was flashed on the board and across the world, it beggared belief. Beamon had broken the record and his own best by 55 cms. When the result came, Beamon himself collapsed on the track in some sort of seizure. Beamon’s jump knocked out long jump as a competitive event, for decades. It is almost 50 years to that event and only Mike Powell has once out-jumped this number. The Bob Beamon Moment is the single biggest sporting surprise in history.

Cut to today and the Rio Olympics 2016. Wayde van Niekerk came to Rio as a good 400 metre runner. Niekerk had won the World Championship last year, but Kirani James and Merritt, previous Olympic champions were considered still better runners. Niekerk would expect to be on the medals stand, though he had a mediocre qualifying round. When the lot was drawn, it put him in lane 8 ahead of everyone, and so his goose was cooked. It meant he would have to run the race blind, ahead of everyone else. The best Olympic time running from lane 8 ever recorded was 44.66 seconds. Michael Johnson world record stood at 43.18, recorded in 1999. James and Merritt felt confident that running from mid lanes, the real battle was between them now.

Niekerk had no option but to go full blast from the start. But 400 while being a sprint, does exhaust one and one generally ends the race in such a situation as a walking dead. So in the face of this full blast, at 200 metres, James and Merritt (both running fast times also) would fully expect to haul Niekerk in. Infact, if you run the video on the net, it is amazing that Niekerk is so far ahead, that the video actually does not capture him for a bit. Around 350 you can see Niekerk slowing and then most extraordinarily, he kicks on, building a new lead and to the finish. When the result came out, it was 43.03 some 0.15 below the WR, but remember the best lane 8 time. That is what makes this extraordinary. Niekerk ran the second 200 metres faster than the first 200.

The best way to gauge this performance, is to look at Usain Bolts reaction when the time is announced. Bolt was waiting for his 100 metres final, where subsequently he also created history. Bolt also left his pre-run interview and went to hug and congratulate van Niekerk. All these videos are on the internet for one to see. So now is this another great, shocking moment in sports history? It is shocking enough for journalists, around the world, to question it in the press conference. It is shocking enough to make ones spine tingle and I just hope it goes down in history as one of those Bob Beamon Moments.

How to live Life

imageNowadays, such clever young people, enter the daily operations of this world. The current curriculum in universities is so advanced, I could only dream about this level in my college days. Education has moved along at a smart pace these past decades and today the science of teaching is just phenomenal. Younger people have analytical skills, work smart, have a way of communicating, own a vision, plan their life goals, are articulate, driven and success agents.

Are we then reaching an era of mankind, when we produce the best of the best, see skills maximisation and benefit all mankind? I would say ‘Yes’ in general commercial terms, considering the high amount of wealth which is owned by the young. But does this bode well for humanity as a whole? Sadly the answer would be an emphatic ‘No’.

During my career in the last decade, I have met many school leavers. They show all the competencies, which will make them great deliverers of material success. But, unfortunately, very few are well-rounded humans, which one would desire in future leaders. These young aspiring managers, entrepreneurs, sports people, artists and lawyers all miss basic soft traits of humanity. Education is delivering efficiency and drive, but not people who will be like Martin Luther King, Mandela or Jinnah. Leaders who care and have a larger purpose in life, which goes beyond materialism.

No wonder we have this huge drive in the world, to deliver growth and profits. Everything is measured in commercial terms. Does not matter, what we have destroyed along the way or the necks we have stepped on. Just look around. Stock markets reign and humans are servants to their whims. Presently, with negativity prevailing in China, declining commodities and stress on large banks, every one is jittery and ready to sell off. Our lives revolve around this phenomenon. Just watch television and that is what you hear. CNN! BBC! Fox! Sky! All of them. Is this what we humans have come to be? There are other issues , like the environment is destroyed; mankind stands at the edge of a precipice. There are over a billion people who suffer from malnutrition. Wealth belongs to less than 1% and 99% other humans suffer. There is death, pillage, and family trauma. So many divorces, so many one parent families. But unfortunately, economics is just more important and reigns supreme. Success and power are measured in economic impact. Reality is, we cannot carry our wealth, position or fame to our graves.

Why would this be? How is it that such efficient human machinery is being delivered, yet cannot work for humanity. My analysis is that basic, simple human stuff is not being taught at any level. Inside our homes, the TV and Internet reign supreme. In the institutions, teaching hard-nosed success takes over and playgrounds, (great teaching places) are deserted the world over. We are never taught the things which matter…how time will fly by, we will become old; our positions are temporary, so how to treat present success; how to treat those less fortunate, not to think ourselves superior to others; as we grow old we shall change, how to handle this with grace; how to fail and learn from it; how to smile through the good and bad, to be patient and thankful. All this amounts to simply the art of ‘how to live life’.

When we are not taught all this, in home, in institutions and outside, then we are producing soulless machinery, which thinks efficiency will lead to success. What an absolute failure of the system. Thus, we are, what we are today.

Parents, urgently need to start this ‘tarbiat‘ at home and then demand it from schools. We should shut the TV, computer and cell phone down for several hours every day, so that the old connection and real conversation returns. Also we have to inculcate skills and feelings which need not just deliver commerce. If we shun some of our present day habits and relearn our millennia old values, then very soon, we will reverse our descent into this hell and turn the tide. We will become humans once more, one humanity and one society.

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