I want to get this post in here now when there’s still a little time before the Winter Olympics begin. I’ve been a fan of the Olympics, summer and winter, going back to childhood. I’m not fanatical; I can’t recite a lot of facts & figures or remember exactly which Olympics happened in which place. Nonetheless I have a strong emotional bond to the games and find a lot of meaning in watching them on TV.
In years past I’d watch the games and by the end I’d get super-excited for the next ones but then a couple years would pass and by the time the Olympics rolled around again, I’d be distracted by other matters and not so gung-ho and it’d take awhile to “get into” them again. This was a a mistake. I have learned is to DIVE IN RIGHT AWAY. No, I can’t sit through all 18 hours of the Opening Ceremonies, but I make a point to watch a little and some of whatever sport follows the next day or two. I find that jumping in gets me excited and invested; I quickly feel like part of them. When I have dragged my heels and not leaped in, I’d typically regret it because soon enough they’d be over and I’d be wanting more.
I have my favorite sports, sure, but I’ll watch a little of a lot of things. I am amazed by what human beings are able to do. That alone holds me spellbound. I can’t skate or ski or snow board or ride a bobsled but I sure enjoy watching people who can. The levels of skill people have reached in these sports – and so many others – is phenomenal. When you watch the Olympics for awhile, you begin to feel like a professional judge too and sling around the language the commentators use: “He didn’t get enough air on that half-pipe.” “She has her legs under her today.” And always: “Look at that amplitude!”
I will watch sports I see no point in; like the luge. How did this become a sport? I don’t know. “Jim, they’re reaching speeds of 110 miles an hour on this turn in the track, which we call Dead Luger’s Curve.”
Bob Kostas, NBC’s main desk anchor for the Olympics since 1992 – 1992!! – has stepped down. I’m a bit disgruntled about this – I loved having him at that desk pulling things together in his affable, confident way – so I’m mighty curious to see how things go without him. At least the humorous Mary Carillo will still be doing her taped segments that focus on the host country’s culture and people. If you see one of her segments coming on, watch it. Learning about the host country is one of the games’ pleasures and she’s a fun commentator.
The Olympics make the world feel smaller. This year in particular I personally really need to feel that. I want to hear about things that unite us. I want to see countries “getting along” at least in the spirit of competitive games. Even North and South Korea have had a little thaw; the two countries’ athletes will march together in the Opening Ceremonies and the women’s hockey team will feature a conjoined team. I’m not naive enough to think “okay, great, everything will be fine now!” but I still find these small things heartening.
Whoever NBC packages as the “it” athletes of the games – the ones they promote and push on the viewing audience – will probably not be the heroes of the games. The Olympics always bring surprises, some good, some not so much. Sometimes a person touted as the best flames out at the games while an up-and-comer nobody had heard of steals the show. I love this part, watching things unfold.
I am athletically inclined and fit but I am not brilliantly skilled in an sport. I can appreciate what it must take both to become so and to remain so, especially with younger, stronger athletes always coming along behind you. (Note: I will be rooting for Shaun White.) When you watch the Olympics your notions about age become entirely skewed. An “old lady” in skating is 28. The announcers will make such a fuss, they’ll make it sound like she left her walker at the rink’s edge before hobbling onto the Olympic ice.
When I watch the Olympics, I feel motivated. I make sure I don’t just sit on my ass in front of the TV for two plus weeks straight. I like to “participate” in my own little manner. I’ll do push-ups during commercials or other little physical things that help keep me in shape. I have no dreams of joining any Olympic team but I like to maintain myself at my own level. If THEY can do THAT, surely I can take a long walk!
I will cry. I alway cry when I watch the Olympics. Watching someone do something they’ve worked all their life for moves me. I love seeing the parents in the audience waving their flags and signs; they look like people you know, regular folk. Sometimes an athlete will surprise themselves with the brilliance of their performance and break down in joyful tears. A winning team will jump on each other and hug as one moving animal. A hard-luck story, of a skater who traveled 8 hours a day to reach the rink to practice, or an athlete who learned to ski on cardboard skis or something in a poverty-stricken sad lttle part of the world, never fails to get me where I live.