I’ll be frank. I’m a Winter Olympics kind of girl. I know it’s mostly frowned upon, but I just prefer watching people figure skate and curl much more than watching them play basketball. (Just kidding. I don’t actually like curling.) But it is Olympic time, and it is not winter. Since most N00bsday articles involve the author sitting down to expose themselves to something brand new on a screen for multiple hours, I felt that this season was the perfect opportunity to express my feelings after my first time caring about the Summer Olympics.
Regardless of the season, the Olympics continue to both create a great feeling of global goodwill and connectedness and make the world cringe over the gaudy fanfare and spectacle that is apparently necessary when any number of cultures collide. A fireworks-based penis-measuring contest, if you will. But at least we’re all cringing together.
Truly, I love the Olympic games, and there are still parts of the Summer Olympics that catch my attention, even if they don’t include Johnny Weir in fuzzy spandex.
Most of them end up being just what I love about the Winter Olympics. I love watching Russia and the USA duke it out through the athletic feats of 16-year-old girls.
I love the look on the rookie’s faces, such as Missy Franklin, when they win their first Olympic medal.
I love the shirtless men in water sports. I enjoy finding out about new sports I never knew were even in the Olympics. Sadly, whitewater kayaking is way more fun to do than to watch. However, I have realized in my time with NBC Olympics, that above all I love watching the Parade of Nations. I don’t think there’s anything that makes me feel more like the human race might be worth all the pain we inflict than seeing the faces of those athletes representing their countries, with those ridiculous smiles. It’s one time where I can be sure that everyone in that room is happy about the same thing, and that they would do nothing to mar that sense of camaraderie. That is until they get onto Twitter, and the commentators get onto their microphones.
Which brings us to:
While this is not the first time I have ever seen the Olympics, it is most definitely the first time I have bothered to think critically about them. I watched the Opening Ceremony with a group of people, and the different reactions were very interesting. Yes, the London Olympic opening ceremony was different than Bejing, which I don’t know if I actually watched. I heard there were fireworks; I heard they were fake; I neglected to care. My friend deftly characterized the Bejing Ceremony as “Hey! We’re a world power now!”
London’s ceremony was not like that. I would say it was more of a “Hey! Look at all this shit we’ve given the world!”
I logged onto the BBC the next morning to find the top headline “London Opening Ceremony decidedly British.” Imagine that. Yet, here in the USA I’ve been hearing very different opinions, many mocking the night. Apparently, in a time when the countries of the world come together in peace and goodwill, appreciating the vision and culture of the host country is not a convention. (I’m trying so hard not to mention “some guy” right now).
In addition to this, each day brings up another small piece of Olympic drama. While I am interested in stories such as Korean fencer Shin A-Lam’s story of an undeserved fourth-place finish, I couldn’t care less when Hope Solo starts tweeting about how mad she is that she cannot tweet, or some announcer talks for ten minutes about another small thing that China has done to justify the world hating them even more.
It is in this cynical, judgmental side of the Olympic games that I find myself, once again, losing sight of what the games are to me and much of the rest of the world. While the Parade of Nations still imbues the event with this sense of global understanding and connectedness, and those individual stories of triumph and loss emphasize its humanity, the constant bickering within and between countries threatens to rob this unique, biannual celebration of human solidarity of its meaning.
At the risk of sounding way too preachy, I guess what I like about the Winter Olympics might be that, as the “secondary” Olympics, they get much less attention, which includes negative attention. I think it is easier to watch the Winter Olympics and not have to wade through the political miasma that the Summer Olympics carries. Or I could just like the sports more. Regardless, I could see what I love about the winter games in the summer games pretty clearly. I think it is worth meditating on the fact that we, as a species, have managed to keep this one tradition alive for centuries. Let’s not let it turn into another platform for world leaders to measure aforementioned pensises.