Now that the Super Bowl is over, you may be wondering what you’re going to watch instead. Never fear, dear friends: the XXIII Olympic Winter Games start February 9th, in PyeongChang, South Korea!
I love the Olympics, and some of my earliest memories are of watching the games with my family. Remember Kerri Strug landing her vault on one leg in 1996?!
You may be of the opinion that, given how small technology and travel have made the world, the Olympics are a quaint relic of the past without a place in the present. While it’s true the world seems a smaller place than it was 10 or 15 years ago, I cannot disagree more with the opinion that the Olympics have no place in the 21st century.
Here are 3 reasons the Olympics are still relevant, and why I can’t wait to introduce them to my kids:
1. The Opening Ceremony
If I could only watch one thing during the Olympics, it would be the Opening Ceremony hands down.
As a former theater kid and dancer, I deeply appreciate the coordination required to pull off these massive displays of pageantry and unabashed patriotism. As a viewer, I cannot get enough of seeing the faces of athletes as they walk into the arena.
The vast majority of them are not going to make it to the podium, and they know that. But seeing the excitement on their faces as they enter the arena gives me chills. Every.Single.Time.
2. The Idealism of the Games
What with doping scandals and terrible revelations about abuse within USA Gymnastics, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought any idealism that was once present in the Games is gone.
Yet, in spite of all this, the Olympics still brings together athletes from all over the world who want to represent their country by competing at the highest level. Athletes who, in many cases, have overcome adversity at home and in their sport just for the opportunity to compete at the Olympics, regardless of the outcome.
3. Learning about the Athletes
Even as a kid, I loved watching the “athlete spotlights” during broadcasts. I was mesmerized learning that a figure skater woke up at 4am every morning to go practice before school. Or that a skier’s family moved to have better proximity to practice facilities.
The only thing I loved more than “athlete spotlights” was when the spotlight was on a foreign athlete. I vaguely remember a spotlight on a Russian athlete during one of the Games in the 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While I didn’t know much about that, I had picked up on the fact that, generally speaking, the Russians were not on our side. Yet after seeing the spotlight on this athlete, I had a much harder time viewing the Russian team as “other.” That’s something I’ve carried with me ever since.
This is the essence of what I love about the Olympics.
They challenge me to recognize the diversity of our world and our similarities amidst that diversity. Maybe the American team trains differently than the Russian team, but we’re ultimately aiming for the same thing.
And in a world where it is easy to turn on the news and see all the ways we are divided, don’t we want to give our children opportunities to celebrate being united?