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.

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2 Responses to “The Olympic Aura”

  1. great post — but what about the winter olympics? There aren’t nearly as many fans there as they are here when the winter olympics have arguably the hardest and most exciting sports out there. I say this as an avid ski racer who loves the snow, but anyone can be excited by everything from curling to downhill, even if they haven’t ever seen snow.

    I am a die hard sports fan, but what makes really appreciate each and every sport is the breed of natural terrain like mountains for skiing and biking. I regard those as much as sports and basketball and football, and most other people just think of those guys as crazy. Don’t get my wrong, I love the Summer Olympics, but including the winter ones as more of a olympics instead of a talent show is something the sports world needs to do.

    pacer521
    http://culturedecoded.wordpress.com/

  2. twonateshow Says:

    I agree with you. For me, the same appeal that I wrote about holds true for both the summer and winter Olympics, which is why I mentioned the every two years part. But you’re right that the Winter games tend to get the “why can’t you be more like your brother” treatment, at least among the people I know.

    I wonder if it perhaps has to do with culture. In the US, things like skiing seem to be viewed as a more trendy sport, whereas in the rest of the world they probably recognize the history a bit more. I’ve never actually researched that so I could be way off base.

    But hopefully the Winter games will start to get more and more viewership as the years go by.

    Thanks for reading and for the great insight!

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