I’m not much of a sports fan, but for just about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Olympic Games. There’s just something about seeing dedicated amateurs try their best for themselves and their nation that inspires me.
The first time I recall really enjoying the Olympics was watching the 1976 Winter Games from Innsbruck, Austria. There’s just something about watching people fly down bobsled courses and ski jumps. Snow, ice, speed and the risk of life and limb – what’s not to love? The Summer Games are great too, of course, but the winter events are the ones I enjoy most. Curling’s more fascinating than synchronized swimming, I guess.
Aside from being able to cheer on my fellow Americans, I always enjoy the settings for the Games, especially those held outside the U.S. In days of old, the U.S. TV coverage always included nice little vignettes about the settings for the games, and the cultures of the host countries. For someone growing up in rural WalrusTown, Innsbruck was as exotic as you could get.
Even with the frustrations of the current television coverage, I still love the Games, even the over-the-top parts such as the opening and closing ceremonies. Sure, they’re outrageous, ridiculous even. But in our cynical times, they’re a reminder of an innocence too often lost in today’s sports.
Yes, I know about the scandals, the doping, the cheating, the fabled “East German judge.” But there’s still plenty to inspire. Look at the amazing U.S. women’s gymnastics team this year. Or Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and the rest of the American swimmers.
Feeling old? Consider the 39-year-old – yes, 39 – gymnast from Bulgaria, Jordan Jovtchev. He’s competing in his sixth Olympics. German gymnast Oksana Chusovitina also is competing in her sixth Games at 37. They’re still competitive in sports dominated by men and women 2 decades their juniors.
Sure, the 2012 Olympics will eventually end and we’ll go back to our daily routines. Nations will compete in other, less friendly ways. The illusion of one harmonious world the Games present will be forgotten until the 2014 Winter Games. But for these two glorious weeks, we can cheer some of the best athletes in the world, and share a dream or two along the way.