Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Olympic Committee

One of the perks of working for the American Center for Mongolian Studies is sometimes I get asked to participate in interesting events outside my area of expertise. This morning the National Olympic Committee asked me to present an award to Dr. Zagdsuren, the president of the committee, on behalf of the American Biographical Institute. This year the institute named Dr. Zagdsuren "Man of the Year in Medicine and Health" for his contributions to Mongolian and international sport training. I was asked to present the award as a ranking representative of the American community in Mongolia. It certainly was an honor to be asked to do it, but the best part was after the ceremony when I received a personal tour of the Mongolian Olympic History Museum, which is housed in the National Olympic Committee building.

I am a huge fan of museums, so having an opportunity to see some of the memorabilia associated with Mongolia's numerous trips to the Olympics was, to say the least, fun. The museum has display cases for each Olympics starting with 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, as well as several Asian Games. Each case has numerous medals, placards, commendations, and pictures. There is also sporting equipment presumably used by Mongolian athletes in the games and during training.

The most enjoyable and enlightening part of the tour was when we got to the 1980 Olympics display, and I somewhat innocently commented on the fact that the US boycotted the Olympics that year. I was only 3 years old at the time, so it was more of a question about history than a comment about personal recollections. Then we moved to 1984, and, of course, the Soviet Union and Mongolia boycotted those Olympics, so there was no real display to speak of. We had a laugh about this, and I think it was partly due to the fact that the world has changed so much. It is almost comical to look back now and wonder what all that boycotting was about. Sure, it was serious stuff then, but for me it is funny to think that the place I call home today was once considered by my parents and grandparents an enemy not even worth playing sports with.

Today Mongolia's Olympic team is a source of immeasurable national pride, having earned 2 silvers and 2 golds in Beijing. I was told by the National Olympic Committee representative that after the award ceremony there was to be another press conference for the handing over ceremony of the first official invitation for a Mongolian athlete to participate in the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. The invitation is for cross-country skiing. Mongolia has yet to win a medal in the Winter Olympics, but with the likes of Dr. Zadgsuren overseeing the team, maybe 2010 will be Mongolia's year.

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