Confession time: I LOVE the Olympics! Perhaps that’s not a big shocker, considering my professed love of sports, but it’s not just the amazing athleticism on display that makes me so enthusiastic (although that certainly plays a part). I love the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, the drama of the torch lighting (and wondering what unique/innovative/crazypants method they’ll come up with for lighting the Olympic flame this time), and the emotional stories of little-known athletes who are achieving their dreams on a world-wide stage.
Of course, there’s the added drama of the host of problems that the host city, Rio, is experiencing, from the seemingly unending construction issues to the Zika virus outbreak to–ahem–less than sanitary conditions for many of the water sports, not to mention all of the political and economic upheaval that Brazil is facing. Given the myriad of issues, I suspect that many will be tuning in to the Olympics just to see if disaster’s going to strike. Let’s hope that the Olympic spirit rises above the potential problems and these games turn out to be memorable for happy reasons.
I’ve been reading and watching a few stories to get me into the Olympic spirit:
• The other night I happened to catch “The Last Gold” on NBC Sports. It’s a documentary of the 1976 U.S. women’s swim team, a team that was expected to take home a truckload of gold medals at the Summer Games in Montreal. Instead, they were largely trounced by the East Germans, who were later confirmed to have been doping. It’s sad to think about what might have been if there had been a level playing field. It’s also sad to see what the East German women–just teenagers who really didn’t know what their coaches were giving them–went through.
• Aside from Muhammed Ali lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta, perhaps the most iconic moment of the ’96 Olympics is Kerry Strug’s vault that helped the US women’s gymnastics team win its first ever gold. This oral history gives a behind the scenes look at what the “Magnificent Seven” went through that day.
Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? What’s your favorite event at the games?