The historical games that originated in ancient Greece and since 1896 have turned into the modern games we all love and watch today.
The sporting event that I can officially say I look forward to for four years, much to the pleasure of the man I recently married.
The bringing together of athletes from over 200 countries to compete in sports, admittedly some of which I do not know they are played on a field, a court, or something else.
What is it about these games that can make people so excited to cheer on a country that is torn politically but brought together by somewhere between 4 and over 400 athletes? Or even better, what makes 4 athletes so driven to compete for something they stand for they are competing as independent from any country, as Olympians? Why are Americans so passionate about these games that the thought of our athletes marching in the opening ceremony in American outfits that were made in China can unite anger against our new world rival?
These questions and hundreds more are brought up on the many ways I am connected to the world (radio, TV, Internet) and it has made me wonder. Why do I love the Olympics SO much I cry at the mention of opening ceremonies? I am already worried about how sad I will be when these games end, please tell me I am not the only one on that little embarrassing piece of information.
So the verdict. Initially I think that it is something I remember as a kid I looked forward to every 4 years and then when the winter Olympics switched to being on the other even numbered years it is something to celebrate every 2 years.
As I got older it got easier for me to remember the Olympic years (later summer Olympics) when I put together they are the same as presidential election years. It helps me remember numbers if I can think of them as applied to more than one thing and that fits right into my strange nerdy world.
Maybe I love the games because it is in my DNA. My Opa, as a young college student, made a trip to Germany with his mother to visit family. As a side trip from visiting family he made his way to the 1936 Olympiad in Berlin. How amazing is it for my family to look through his photo album and see, tucked between athletes competing from KU, a signed photograph of Jesse Owens?
These reasons are great, but personally why am I so excited and emotional about the games? I think it has a lot to do with 2004. I was volunteering at Pax Lodge in London and living with young ladies from many different countries. I watched the BBC version of the games instead of NBC and I assure anyone who has never watched from another country the NBC broadcast is not only American centric as far as athletes, but the sports that are shown. I have never seen so much rowing, I didn't know who Steve Redgrave or Paula Radcliff were until after I became immersed in British sport, Olympic style! The truly unique part of this viewing has much more to do with who I watched these games with, the room always had at least one representative from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, and Britain and then the people who were in and out include Kenya and Mexico. It was a really international experience of these international games. We each cheered for our country when appropriate, and when there was not a representative we choose someone else. How enlightening?
This insight into how other countries view the Olympics broadened my complete understanding of the meaning of the games. These games are not just a chance for Michael Phelps to hear his name again (good gravy who is not already sick of that name) but this is an opportunity for representatives from all countries to share the glow of the international television audience. It is a chance to learn about each others strengths and weaknesses. It brings together groups of people to learn from each other based on those strengths and improve on our own weaknesses.
Which brings me to last night.
Women's gymnastics qualifying
However this took me back to 2004, sitting in the Rose Room and watching with my friends. I remember the remarks about how wealthy nations can afford to send many more athletes to compete and how they obviously would win more medals as a result. It seems unfair that a qualified athlete, who wants to compete, does not get the chance. So here we are, in a bind. Jordan Wieber, the reigning world champion who by the numbers absolutely qualified for the Olympic all-around, but does not get to compete and that makes me really angry and sad for her. Instead of thinking about Jordyn, I am thinking about that athlete who came to London with the same dream as Wieber, who won't be on the gold medal favored team, and who is getting a shot at glory for her country. I know that is the harder of the attitudes to take about the competition but it is how I choose to feel after having experienced what spectators from other places in the world feel when their team wins one medal compared to the USA who expect to win the most medals.
It is hard to take me out of the mindset of an American, I was born in a country that affords so many advantages to its citizens we sometimes forget (of simply don't know) that this is not the way in the rest of the world.
Jordyn Wieber is a champion. And as my mom always said when something really crappy happened it is a character building experience. Jordyn will be a better person when this is done, medal or not.