I realize I let the London Olympics 2012 come and go without even a word about it on my blog. How dare I? Well, quite frankly, I’ve had so many other things on my mind… but I am missing the Olympics this week. It’s absence has left a gaping hole in my schedule. I look forward to the Olympics every couple of years – summer and winter games. I watch unrelentingly from the first moment of the opening ceremony to the final moment in the closing ceremony when the torch is extinguished. I love them.
I feel like it is guilt-free television. I can watch, and be proud to watch, because it’s supporting my country, it’s somewhat educational, it’s inspirational, and it’s real. It’s real sport, it’s real athletes with real life stories, it’s real culture and countries coming together in the name of sport for a time of peace and friendly competition. In the world we live in today, where war and famine, disease and hate run rampant in most places touched by humans… this brings a small reprieve, reminds us of what we, as humans, can be and should aspire to be. It gives us hope that peace is possible and that developing friendships across racial, ethnic, religious, and country lines and boundaries is not only worthwhile but necessary if we are ever to make this world a better place.
I really enjoy watching our U.S. athletes succeed in their chosen event. To hear the national anthem played on their behalf fills me with patriotism and awe. But I think, to a larger degree, I really appreciate the failures, the missed moments, the struggles of all the athletes – U.S. or otherwise. It is easy to be a good sportsman when you’ve won, but it’s so much more impressive to see the impenetrable spirits that many of these athletes display when they face loss. When their hard work doesn’t pay off and their dreams don’t come true. To show incredible grace at a time like that is to display the best the human spirit has to offer.
I am also amazed by the individual life stories. The financial hardships many face in order to dedicate their lives to excellence in a sport they love. There are those who sacrifice their families and friends and move away for better opportunities to train and realize their dreams. But even greater are those that come from countries in peril. Those where finances and family are the least of their worries. There are those special athletes who have not only overcome those difficulties but have done so in the face of incredibly dangerous odds as well. Odds that probably weren’t in their favor. Odds that, if gone the wrong way, could have meant life or death. These athletes deserve the most admiration. They are from nations in conflict and war, many have seen their families die from hunger or disease or worse. Some have watched them be brutally murdered in their villages or towns. Some have had to train in secret for fear they’d be killed if found out. And some, started training before they were even old enough to know they were training, as was the story of one marathon runner from a country in Africa who as a young boy ran for days and days to escape being taken captive and forced to become a child soldier. There are so many stories like this, stories that make my heart break and bring tears to my eyes.
And yet, out of the ashes they rise. They survive, but not only that, they persevere, they develop their God-given talents into a positive outlet that will connect them to the rest of the world, bring their story to light, and help to raise awareness of these crimes and tragedies of life. I cannot even begin to imagine.
These such individuals are the true Olympic heroes. Whether they win a medal or not. They’ve already been tested, they’ve already been proven, and they have come out on top. Their presence alone is a remarkable feat, one that I’m sure only a few in this world could achieve. There is nothing else left to validate. And there is nothing more spectacular.
I look at my little life, in this country of the United States of America and I feel so blessed after I see these stories. How can I possibly take the things I have, and have been given, for granted when there are so many with so much less, if anything at all.
This is why I love the Olympics. Yes, I love the sports. I love the competition. I love the entertainment. But more importantly, it reminds me of my place in this world. It widens my view of it and those who share this great planet with me. It generates an excitement that I rarely find anywhere else and it places compassion in my heart. It reminds me that I am so very blessed and that though I often do, I should never take those blessings for granted. It fills me with pride for our athletes, for our nation but also for the good that can be found in people when we really look closely and pay attention. For all of our differences, we really aren’t so different. I think we could all use that reminder from time to time.
So while I’m mourning my daily injection of inspiration and real-life entertainment, I suppose I will now patiently wait for the games to once again commence, two years from now, in Sochi, Russia. This time, for the winter games. I am already ready to be inspired and entertained by the greatest athletes, and really some of the greatest humans, in the world.