I won’t be posting much while the Olympics are going on in Rio and I will have to take some time off after they are done to catch up on my sleep as well because I’m trying to watch as much as I can on TV as well as online. But my temporary sleep deprivation is always worth it every four years.
I love both the Summer and Winter Olympics and I always have since I was a wee one. I’m not ashamed to admit I cry during the Opening Ceremony and I cry even harder during the Closing Ceremony.
I cry at the beginning because of the national pride and the hopes on the face of each athlete as they walk into the stadium. They have all worked so, so very hard at trying to be the best in their sport that they can be, the very best of all of the world’s athletes, and they each want to win a medal, preferably gold.
Most won’t win, but they don’t know that at the Opening Ceremony and the whole stadium is full of their collective hopes and dreams. But for all of them, just to BE at the Olympics, is worth it even if they don’t earn a medal. It’s an exclusive club to say that you were an Olympian athlete and most of us can only enjoy that experience vicariously.
I love the big cheerleading events that the host country always puts on to explain their history, their feats and achievements throughout their country’s past and how they say, “Welcome World! Welcome Olympian Athletes!”
And I also love the varied and unique ways that the different host countries have come up with to light the Olympic Torch in its cauldron. I am always intrigued as to who will be chosen to do the final honors and why they were chosen. And every four years, throughout my lifetime, that is when the tears start falling more. It’s time! Let the Games begin!
I especially am so touched by the personal stories of most of the Olympians and how they have overcome so many personal and financial hardships just to be able to go to the Olympics and compete. Because that is what separates the best from the rest: that drive, that intense concentration to be perfect, the determination to prevail no matter what. All of the Olympian athletes try so hard to completely live up to the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
I know a little bit about that drive and that concentration to win as an athlete. I was on my high school’s track team and I have participated in gymnastics, basketball, softball, racketball, bowling, marching band contests as a clarinetist and as part of a rifle drill squad during high school and for many years after. I am competitive, even though I was moderately skilled, and I have always loved sports, whether as a participant or a viewer.
So watching these superb Olympian athletes perform and compete at such high levels of competition, training and skills that I never could achieve, even when I was at my best, is something I have long loved and enjoyed. I cheer for them during their events, whoop it up for the winner and feel empathetic for the ones who just missed their dreams of an Olympic medal because I do understand a bit of their anguish.
The Closing Ceremony is always bittersweet for me, and probably is as well for everybody who is involved with each Olympics, from the athletes, their coaches, the referees, to the newscasters and to the people who just hand out towels or wipe off playing surfaces.
It’s bittersweet because all of the highs and the lows and the spine-tingling drama of each event are now over. The medals have been awarded and there are no more chances for the athletes to participate and possibly win in that particular Olympics; they will just have to wait and work hard another four years and we will also have to wait for them as well.
I start crying at the Closing Ceremony when the athletes pour into the Stadium and there are no more divisions according to countries; it’s now just one big goodbye party and one last hug between all of these athletes. National affiliations and medal counts don’t matter any more because they are all Olympians, they are all members of that exclusive club.
Seeing how all of these very competitive people from so many of the world’s countries, for the most part, peacefully get along at each Olympics is always so gratifying. If there are any disputes during any of the events, they are fairly judged and reviewed and each country abides by the final decisions.
I also always wonder why can’t the whole world be more like the Olympics? Yes, there were horrifying tragedies like the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when 11 Israeli Olympians were taken hostage and killed by the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September, and the Centennial Olympic Park bombings during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia but during the history of the modern Olympics, troubles like those have been thankfully rare.
I cry when the Olympic Flag is respectfully lowered and passed to the representatives of the next Olympics’ host city. I cry when the closing speeches are made and the Olympics are officially declared over. But I cry the hardest when the Olympic Flame has been doused because that is the visual finality to the wonderful preceding 17 days.
But the sweetest thought is that in four more years, I will get to vicariously experience all of these highs and lows again, hear the touching personal stories of some of the world’s athletes, and have again the thrill of watching all of these highly trained and motivated individuals compete to be the fastest, the highest and the strongest in the world.