Ships in the canal blew their horns and people in Panama City streamed out onto the streets cheering at 9am on August 18th when Panamanian long-jumper Irving Saladino's clinched Panama's first gold medal ever. This gold is Panama's third Olympic medal ever -- the only other medals were by sprinter Lloyd Labeach who won bronze medals in the 100m and 200m sprints in 1948.
Not only were there celebrations...but the whole nation took the day off last Thursday the 21st to celebrate the victory. Schools, goverment offices and some stores were closed. So far the only parts of the olympics that I have seen are 300 replays of the gold medal cerimony, one competitor for syncronized swimming, the men´s 2000 meter race, and a couple of women throwing/hurling heavy balls attached to cords. All in all an interesting experience.
The most interesting part of the coverage was that some of the channels that carried the awards cerimony for Saladino blacked out (literally with a big black digital square) the head of the man who placed the the medal on Saladino on the olympic podium. I never did get a clear answer there...but it seems that there was some contraversy over wether Panama´s Olympit athletes would get funding to aid thier trip...and this guy was part of it. Very strange. I don´t know if I will ever understand clearly why he deserved to go headless in the eyes of some TV executives here.
The best part was seeing the medal ceremony when they played the national anthem of Panama. I have always been a weepy sap for the national anthem of the USA... I feel the emotion well up everytime I hear it, even more so for special events like Olympic victory. It was funny (in a good way) to see the medaling ceremony for Saladino and find myself having the same emotional responce for Panama and their national anthem. No, I can´t sing it all...I don´t really want to. But I do feel enough connection to feel the welling up of happieness and pride like that.
I doubt that I will see much more of the games...but I have managed to hear that Phelps is rocking the swimming world again. Congratulations to both Saladino and all the other athletes who are wowing the world.