Bulgaria's 'Lord of the Rings' and the Silver Olympic Lining
Every four years one event, the Olympic Games, pushes to the background all other news and makes all the headlines.
For several weeks, the World is simply Olympics, with its inhabitants mesmerized by lavish ceremonies, the race for medals, by the records and the achievements.
Bulgarians still reeling from the horror of the deadly terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas that shattered the feeling of being safe, suffocating under price hikes, political bickering and empty promises ahead of the election year are also glued to their TV sets with the hope to regain some optimism and self-confidence.
Back in time, Bulgaria used to be a true "Olympic Power" and the medal tally often ranked the country among the top ten. Many feel nostalgic about these days when the Communist regime turned sports into politics and a propaganda tool. Today, we still cheer our athletes, watch with pride the outstanding performance of the men's volleyball team, rising above the internal scandal shaking their sport, and dream for at least one medal to put us on the winners' list.
On the very first day of the 2012 London Olympics one man gave everyone in the country a reason to brim with joy.
Bulgarian gymnast, Yordan Yovchev, who was bestowed the honor of carrying the country's colors at the opening ceremony, performed his rings combination well enough to rank eight and make it to the finals.
On the backdrop of several countries piling up medals in the first hours of the Games, this might not seem such a great achievement, but the news about it circled the globe.
Yovchev broke a different kind of record. He is the first ever male gymnast to take part in six Olympic Games, a true veteran of the Olympic spirit. At the age of 39 he not only competed, but prevailed over other outstanding gymnasts, many of whom could be his children. The athlete, with the strange for an Olympic "landscape" silver-gray hair, did it all with a partially broken wrist and partially torn bicep.
Media across the world jumped on this story, calling the Bulgarian a hero, a living legend, the finest male gymnast ever, an Olympic tale worth to be told... BBC introduced him at the opening ceremony as the "Lord of the Rings."
Yovchev, who has four gold medals from World Gymnastics Championships, four Olympic medals (one silver, and three bronze), three gold medals from European Championships and many, many others, smiles humbly without hiding his happiness and insists he has no chance whatsoever of winning a medal at the August 6 finals.
However, London 2012 is the biggest triumph ever for this unassuming, dignified and hardworking athlete-gentleman, a Bulgarian triumph. The not very big in height man stands tall and towering among the 10 000 Olympic competitors.
"The important thing in life is not to triumph but to compete." This message was left to us by Pierre de Cubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, the man whose vision led to the revival of the Olympic Games.
Bulgaria's Yovchev just turned into the epitome of these famous words.
Amidst heated debates in Bulgaria over the news that Prime Minister Borisov is going to be "put" in high school history books for his contributions to the nation, Yovchev made history, entering its annals right through the front door.