The curtain goes up on the London Olympic Games 2012 today evening with an opening ceremony to beat all ceremonies. For days now, the run-up to the Games has been spiked with stories about doping cheats (the International Olympic Committee or IOC has promised the cleanest ever Games), London’s traffic woes, queues at airports, two toilets to six athletes and other accounts which might make the reader think that the Games are the greatest pain on earth.

Even before London had revved up for the Games, there were reports of how certain Olympic officials are corrupt, the number of palms that have to be greased for a country to get the Olympics and how drug cheats are finding new ways to mask the substances. There are books with titles like Fraud of the Rings, telling the reader what the Olympics really and truly are, (the blinkers must fall off) despite all those sterling ideals they purportedly uphold.

One would be naïve to believe that the Olympics are the soul-stirring magic they market themselves to be. Stories of cynicism, fraud and cheating are to a certain extent, true. Yet, the Games and the Olympic medals continue to have a sheen simply because they exemplify the human quest for excellence. Spectators are drawn to the Games because they still stand for old-fashioned virtues like hard work, sweat, blood ’n guts and courage, in a world of fast eroding morals.

There is that undeniable lure of seeing just how much man can push the envelope: are we ever going to see an 8-second 100 m race? It seems outrageous but the world would love to know. After all, just a few years ago, experts were scoffing at a sub-10 100m but it happened. So too, in other sports — how high can we jump? How much weight can we lift? The biggest lure of the Games is that the Olympics are still about striving to go beyonnd the limit.