“Jake,” I asked my son recently, “do you think my titanium knees give me an unfair advantage in climbing mountains?” “No,” he said, and returned to his iPhone.
I had brought the matter up because one of the two Olympic stories that fascinated me was that of Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter whose legs were amputated just below his knees when he was 11 months old. Fitted with an unlikely-looking set of prostheses, Pistorius runs fast enough not only to qualify for the Olympics but to have his legged opponents complaining about his “unfair advantage.” Although he has been subjected to batteries of inconclusive tests, the true test seems simple: in a world in which people will go to almost any lengths to gain an advantage, I have yet to hear of anyone amputating his legs in pursuit of Olympic glory.
The other story is that the International Olympic Committee again refused a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes who were taken hostage and murdered at the 1972 Munich games. Meanwhile, Sarah Attar, the first female Saudi track competitor, was cheered wildly for finishing last in the 800 meters, perhaps because her government required her to run covered from head to toe in traditional garb. No one complained about her handicap.
Attar represents a step toward equality in the Arab world, but the continuing refusal to acknowledge the barbaric tragedy that happened 40 years ago in Munich shames everyone who allows it to happen.