Olympics fever

By the time this is published the 2012 London Olympic Games will be nearly half over. As I discussed with someone at church the other day, there is just something special about the olympics. I don’t watch sports that much at any other time. I don’t watch the international competitions that happen in the off years. But when the olympics are here I practically drop everything else. It’s one of the few times I wish we had cable television.

It’s the same with the rest of my family. My kids eagerly read through the list of coverage for each day and discuss which events they’d like to see. My daughter has decided she wants to be an olympic athlete someday and has been getting up at 6:30 to go running every day since the opening ceremonies (even after staying awake until 11:00 pmwatchingthe opening ceremonies).

Being an international family we tend to be less loyal to Team USA than we might. My daughter was cheering for Croatia to beat the US Women’s basketball team last week. My boys were cheering for the US. I was hoping Croatia would at least give them a run for their money (and for half the game they did).  I don’t mind the US winning, and in some sports I’ll certainly cheer for them. But I always want the lesser-known countries to do well. It might have something to do with marrying a woman from a lesser-known country; it might have to do with always favoring the underdog.

I love the drama of the games. I love the personal stories behind the athletes. I’m inspired by those athletes (and parents) who have overcome especially difficult circumstances. I’m excited to see the effects of the games over time.

For example, I was skeptical like most when they made the decision to let the US send our NBA players for Olympic Basketball. The other countries wanted the chance to play against us, it was said. But I couldn’t believe they wanted to be defeated so soundly. It made no sense.

But that was a couple decades ago. The number of foreign players in the NBA has risen dramatically. The American “dream-teams” have stumbled and struggled some years. The rest of the world has begun catching up. Seeing the best in action helps you learn how to improve yourself. I’m a believer now.

I enjoy that there are sports–even prominent ones–where a US medal is not a foregone conclusion, or we’re even considered the underedogs, because I believe opposition brings out the best in everyone. I wish we got to see more of those events, of course. I didn’t realize just how much we were missing out on until I got the chance to watch the Athens Olympics from Finland. It’s a big deal there. They have 24/7 coverage, and they show anything that’s interesting, not just events Finns are competing in. Even when I couldn’t understand the announcers I still learned a lot about sports I didn’t even know were part of the olympics.

Perhaps the best part of the olympics is its ability to put a human face on the other nations. We can sit back and fear/despise North Korea or Syria, but it’s different when you see another human being representing that country, just trying to do their best. Many of us across the world would get along just fine if circumstances brought us face to face. It’s not a bad thing that every four years we are able to forget for awhile that things are never that simple.

I’m not going to get much done the next few weeks until the games are over. And I’m okay with that. This is the Olympics! They don’t knock on my door and demand my attention very often, and so they’re always welcome guests.