The Olympic Aura
It happens to me every two years. As the anticipation for each Olympiad grows in the days and months leading up to the event, I always welcome it with a bit of a low key reaction. An embarrassing reaction, I know, especially for someone who writes for a sports blog.
I plan to watch some of the major events but don’t give much thought to the bulk of the 3500 hours of NBC coverage. Every two years, the hype and Morgan Freeman commercials always seem a bit much.
But then it begins. And in an almost an instant I’m hooked. Not just to a few events, but to all of them. Regardless of whether I understand all of the rules or recognize all of the strategy, I’m addicted. For example, I just got done watching the USA play China in water polo.
That’s right, water polo.
I know nothing about water polo, unless you count the times I played it’s very distant cousin, Marco Polo, in the neighborhood pool.
So what is it about the Olympics that suddenly makes every sport seem like your favorite?
It’s the fact it isn’t just about sport; it’s about spirit. And it’s two-sided.
There’s the patriotic spirit in the enjoyment citizens from around the world get by rallying behind their own and cheering for not just a team, but a country. National pride keeps us on the edge of our seats and pumping our fists, whether we understand what just happened in the game or not. And in an industry often dominated by the color of money, for two weeks we watch winners brought to tears by simply seeing the colors of their nation raised high.
The second aspect is one that my friend Nate touched on a couple of days ago – the human spirit, and its intangible power takes us beyond borders and medals. We’re flooded with backstories of athletes from around the world, each a narrative of strength, sacrifice, and perseverance. And ultimately, the faces stick with us just as much as the final score, if not more in some cases.
Some say the Olympics doesn’t have the same aura that it did decades ago. Our cultures are inundated with sports now. Information and news is worldwide so we see highlights from around the globe every day. And while Olympic athletes were amateur in the truest sense of the word back in the day, now they have the ability to train full time.
They’re right – the sporting side of it isn’t as rare as it used to be. But as a result, the Games have become much more. They’re not just about sport, they’re about humanity. And that’s what brings each of us back every two years.