Olympics – Helmand Style

MSF staff in Lashkar Gah challenged the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to the first ever Olympic games held in our compound and didn't fair so well !

Last weekend, the MSF staff in Lashkar Gah challenged the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to the first ever Olympic games held in our compound. The ICRC accepted the challenge with an email that suggested they were going to kick our behinds, and the games were on.

We started with a rousing cheer from our MSF cheerleaders, Faiza and Caro, who had spent a gruelling evening creating pom poms and cheerleading skirts (worn over their shalwar kameez) out of garbage bags, and training to lead a cheer. Then we were off to the first event, the dress-up relay. The object was to get each team to dress and undress each team member (over their own clothes, of course) in a shalwar kameez and scarf, one at a time, with the first team finished being the winner. I am sad to report that ICRC won this event, but in our defense, our logisticians are much taller and broader shouldered than theirs, and I deliberately chose very small shalwars, for the comic effect. We did, however, make a stunning comeback in the string relay, tying up the games 1-1.

Following a much needed break from these spectacularly athletic events, it was off to the discus throw. The object was to throw a frisbee into a basket from an incredible distance of about 10 feet. Because none of us were able to make the shot, we gave points for actually hitting the basket, and I am sorry to report that, again, the ICRC won this event. This event was closely followed by a rousing game of horse shoes, with the horse shoes having been cut out of some sheet metal in the local bazaar and the pitch being hastily created by Ryan, our technical logistician, with some PVC pipe on the garden lawn. We did have to have a short break between the two events, as I had foolishly left the “horse shoes” in the hot sun and they were too hot to handle and had to spend some time in the fridge to cool down. I am happy to report that we won the horse shoe event, but again, the rules had to be amended. No one was actually able to get a shoe around the posts, and so we said that if we touched the post, it was worth a point.

The high point of the games was the penguin soccer event, wherein the two teams of three all had their knees tied together with scarves, and then had to try and play soccer. I am not sure that the players had a good time, but those of us watching had a ball. The ICRC, once again, destroyed us in this game, but we had two events to go, and we weren’t giving up without a fight. We had thought to play a game of dodge ball – with water balloons. The plan was to award the win to the team with the last person standing. I didn’t realize what would happen if you gave a bunch of humanitarians open access to two tubs of water balloons. The resulting, very quick, battle was declared a draw as none of us were dry at the end and no one knew who had been hit, or even who belonged to which team.

Now we had only one event left. The dreaded synchronized swimming event. Fortunately for us, the ICRC didn’t have access to the games list prior to the day and we had rehearsed a number. Faiza, Caro and I were stunning in our garbage bag bikinis (again over our shalwars), our garbage bag bathing caps and paper clip nose guards.  We danced a choreographed number to the theme song of McGyver (chosen in honour of our logistician, who has the same name). We chose the backdrop of our patio as the scene because it has a lovely painted (albeit peeling) mural of an ocean scene. I am ashamed to admit that I forgot my routine, but after being prompted by Caro, I got through it. The ICRC admitted their defeat in this event and declined to enter a team.

At the end it was a tie and we did not bother with our planned medal ceremony as we didn’t know what to do. All in all I felt it was a rousing success and we all had a bit of fun. I am very grateful to the ICRC for their good natured involvement in our silliness. Let’s all take a lesson from our children. Sometimes it is essential to blow off a little steam and just play with each other.