Loving the Little Things About the Olympic Games

July 25, 2012

In two days, the opening ceremonies for the Games of the XXX Olympiad will begin and kick off one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles.

Of course, if you’re truly a fan of the Games, then things already kicked off at 11 a.m. Eastern time today. That is when Great Britain took on New Zealand in women’s soccer, the official first event of the 2012 London Olympics. 

I was sitting on the couch with my dad this afternoon watching the final game of the day, a Group G match between Columbia and North Korea, when he said something that really struck me. “I don’t care if it’s Columbian women’s soccer or a judo match,” my dad said, “as long as it’s the Olympics, I’ll watch it.”

In a time where big time college football programs are being hit with sanctions because of cover-ups by school administrators and NBA stars are holding teams hostage while they make their decision as to where they will play, I have seen my dad go from a person who seemed to like sports to one who seems to think I’m insane for caring so much about them.

Maybe I’ve just grown up and have learned more about him. However, I suspect that at one time he actually did enjoy watching athletes at the highest level, before professional and collegiate leagues became completely saturated with prima donnas and cheaters. 

As we continued our conversation, he talked about the little known athletes from dirt poor countries most people have never heard of forming lifelong friendships with those from privileged countries while in the Olympic village. He talked about how he felt the Olympics were as good an example of true democracy the world has to offer. Basically, the stuff that movies are based on and people look to as points of inspiration.

For many of the athletes at the Olympic Games, they will never experience a better two weeks in their entire lives. There are no multi-million dollar sponsorship deals for the Croatian water polo team. But if they’re the best in the world, there’s a gold medal waiting for them.

After the Games are over, a lot of the athletes will go back to their day jobs. Yes, you read correctly. The Home Depot commercials aren’t just a clever marketing scheme. The large majority of Olympic athletes do not have the luxury of sorting out the finer points of their new contract with a professional sports team.

Sure, there are athletes such as Michael Phelps and Lolo Jones, media darlings who have been prominently featured in major magazines for months. But they aren’t the heart and soul that make the Olympic Games interesting to watch even for people like my dad, who are at their breaking point with regards to most major professional and college sports. It’s the athletes that are just good at what they do, that you may never hear from again if they don’t medal, that make the Games so special.

Humans were meant to compete. It’s natural for us to want to see who the best is as a result. Often times though, it takes over as the sole purpose of competition in American professional sports and ruins those competitions for people like my dad. I can’t say that I’ll ever stop watching college football just because I don’t agree with what is going on behind the scenes. However, if that does happen, I can’t imagine a scenario where I could get along without having some sporting event to watch and know that it is being done out of the love of competition rather than some selfish endeavor.

Luckily, every four years there are a multitude of Olympic sports that the media barely touches and are simply pure, honest competitions. Those are the sports that people like my dad enjoy. The sports that preserve the small amount of joy in watching athletes perform that, if absent, would make me question my own values that I hold.

For those sports, I couldn’t be more thankful.   

– K. Becks

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