• 2000-10-05
The Olympic Games in Sydney was a triumph for all three Baltic countries. Lithuania grabbed two gold medals and three bronze. Latvia got one gold, one silver and a bronze, while Estonia got one gold and two bronze medals. Lithuania ranked 33rd in the medal count, Latvia 42nd and Estonia 46th out of 199 participating countries.

Few people have any complaints about the decisions of Baltic governments to pay prize money to Olympic medalists. These prizes will not ruin the Baltic economies, and Olympic medalists deserve compensation for their sacrifices. It is much more difficult for representatives of a small country to become Olympic champions than sportsmen of the United States, Australia, Canada or China, which have huge armies of coaches and better training conditions.

Baltic victories in Sydney help the Balts make their countries more known throughout the world. It was a sensation when Lithuania lost to the American "Dream Team" just by nine points in a preliminary round basketball game. During a post-game report, CNN mistakenly placed "Lithuania" next to the flag of Kuwait. When the United States won by just two points against Lithuania in the semifinals, the situation became different. The world got a message from Lithuania: "NBA, shut up" and this message was spread by world media with the knowledge of Lithuania's geographic situation.

This game is worth a couple of paragraphs. Lithuania showed other countries that NBA players are not gods. Following the Lithuanian example, they also fought hard against the United States. It is still difficult for other countries to follow Lithuania, but times are changing. In previous times other teams were just full of fear and surrendered to the Dream Team before the game.

Ten years ago Lithuania and other former Soviet republics helped ruin the political myth about the Soviet Union. Lithuanians helped lead the way. Now Lithuania crashed the worldwide myth about American superiority in basketball. Lithuania seems to specialize in smashing world myths. And it is a rather useful specialization.