The anticipation of the Beijing Olympics has been palpable – and the spectacular opening ceremonies, at the impressive Bird’s Nest, proved it was well worth the wait. The ideals of the summer games are represented by Lopez Lomong, elected by his teammates to be the the United States flag bearer. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan, he was not only rescued from a Kenyan refugee camp by a United Nations program, but also qualified for the U.S. team in the 1,500 meter race.
What a story – personified in the host country, China, which has been strongly criticized for its record on human rights. One of the key concerns has been the war torn Darfur region of Lomong’s home, Sudan. Lomong joined Team Darfur, a group formed to raise awareness of perceived abuses, yet says he’s an ambassador of the U.S., not the government. He’s walking on eggshells and showing his character, sending a message as an athlete from Sudan: “I am worried about the kids who are dying in Darfur, kids who don’t have the dream they could be good athletes or Olympians or doctors, because they will be running away from their villages separated from their families.” His greatest hope is to inspire young kids around the world, like he was. And that, in large measure, is what these games are about.