A few days ago, I posted several videos and a link to the famous and moving event when Muhammad Ali lit the flame at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Emotional as that footage is, this clip below remarkably gives it a run for its money. It also comes from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and it also features Muhammad Ali. It's much less-known and in fact little remembered. But it's much more personal and, because of that, arguably more moving, which is saying a WHOLE lot.
There is a legend that surrounds Ali and his Olympic history, winning the Gold Medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. The story is that after returning the U.S., the boxer faced racism back home in Louisville, not being allowed in a restaurant, and so in anger and protest he supposedly threw his Gold Medal into the river. That turned out not to be true, at least the throwing the medal in the river part, as historians have uncovered. The truth is that Ali simply lost his Gold Medal. Whether he told the other story to cover his loss, or to make a point, who knows? But the Gold Medal was lost.
The 1996 Olympics were the games were the first and real "Dream Team" played in the Olympics -- Michael Jordan, Larry BIrd, Magic Johnson and more. At halftime of their Gold Medal game against Yugoslavia, rather than have whatever other normal entertainment would be held, instead the International Olympic Committee had a special event -- they presented Muhammad Ali with a new Gold Medal.
It's deeply clear from this footage how important and meaningful it was to Ali. Equally notable -- but not even remotely surprising -- rather than go back to the locker room to rest between halves, the legendary members of the Dream Team stayed on the court to watch. As legendary as these basketball players were, they seem to have a pretty good idea who the real legend is. The Yugoslavian team stayed, as well.
What I like about this, as well, is that it's not a featurette put together with short clips of the occasion. It's the footage of the NBC broadcast, with Bob Costas hosting and to his credit -- and not surprising, given that it's Costas -- he gets the real story right.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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