I have watched every Olympic Games since 1992 in Barcelona…one of my earliest memories of anything is watching a Spanish diver jumping on a spring board into a clear blue pool. It was sunny out and I remember thinking that it looked very fun what these amazing looking athletes were doing.
I have never myself been a very athletic person. Sure I will play the occasional game of pick-up basketball and I enjoy playing games like anyone else, but I have always been a sports fan. I have watched the Chicago Bulls since I was a toddler and I am still a fan (even though they are sucking right now…WHY DID YOU TRADE Deng?) and I watch American football as a more passive observer. I am a new fan of Football (soccer) and have been watching the world cup and international league matches since 2006. I still remember when the World Cup was in Chicago and my dad told me about all the crazy Japanese and Brazilian tourists running around the streets and Union Station waving national flags! My dad (a former high-school Greco-Roman wrestler) got me into MMA fighting and now I am something a of a fanatic for that sport as well! I guess you could say I have always had an appreciation for sport.
But the Olympics have always been special to me, especially the Winter games. I think it started with the flags…I have always been something of an amateur vexilloligist and having a chance every two years (I grew up in the post Albertville biennial games era) to many of the beautiful flags of the world on parade with the people that they represent always enthralled and amazed me. It is the international character of the event that captures my interest as well. Seeing so many different sorts of people from all over the world all together to do something inherently cooperative and peaceful. Some nations that only ever meet on the battlefield or angrily over a conference table in Geneva can set aside this animosity and just relate on a human and athletic level. The athletes are the real reason I watch, above everything else. Watching the women’s downhill snowboard competitors hug each other after each of their runs really drives home how cynical so much of the world can be and how much sport can teach us about compassion, cooperation and friendship.
Being able to see all this beautifully maintained and crafted human forms, male and female, in motion and doing things that you would never see otherwise is another draw. There is very little that is more exciting then watching a person go down an icy hill face first on a tiny sled going 145kph, and the grace and power of a figure skater flying about on blades twirling and jumping in the air will never cease to amaze me. That is one thing that has made the Winter Games stand out to me, the ability to transcend gravity and and embrace the true power of physics. The Summer Games are wonderful but there is nothing to compare to the speed and the power on display in its winter counterpart, save perhaps for BMX racing.
There are negative aspects to the games of course: the corruption of the IOC (which I feel needs to be abolished and reformed into something truly egalitarian and humanitarian), the gross attempts by corporations to cash in on the games and turn them into yet another line on a profit report, and of course the ignorant, jingoist, supremely sexist and mawkish coverage of the games by NBC in the US (the sexism in particular galls me as a man with three younger sisters and a wife, all of whom were or still are involved in some sort of athletic endeavor). I wish there were a way we could watch the games in the US without the 1950’s style “story-lines” shoved down our throats by the network, but until we can find a way I suppose the mute button will have to do.
I really do love the Olympics. It makes me happy and it allows me to see parts of the world I may never be able to see, and cheer for people I will probably never meet. It introduces me to sports that are neglected in the US and to ideas of partnership and cooperation that are all to rare in the everyday world, especially in our hyper-capitalist money driven individualist mindned US.
It is nice to see another world out there were more than just profit and power matters.
Sports I will be paying special attention to this year: