Olympic games present a rare joy to watch on television

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The 2006 Winter Olympic games are taking place in Turin, Italy. The Olympics, both winter and summer, are one of my favorite things to watch on TV, for a variety of reasons.

One reason I love the Olympics is because they happen so rarely. The games take place once every four years. The summer and winter games are during alternating even-numbered years, but it still takes four years to see the same events again. The Olympics are such a rarity that they are a treat to watch. They, like anything in scarce supply, are great when you get the chance to enjoy them.

Another thing that makes the Olympics so great is the different sports. Many of the Olympic sports, especially the winter sports, are not on TV on a regular basis. The only winter sport consistently on television is hockey, but downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, speed skating, the biathlon, bobsledding and curling are among the sports shown on TV during the Olympics. Here in the U.S., football, baseball and basketball reign supreme, while golf, racing and even poker also have loyal viewing. The Olympics provide a glimpse into the sporting world that is seldom seen or talked about. The athletes that compete in many of the Olympic sports train just as hard as the professional athletes here in the States, but without the publicity or fanfare.

The athletes themselves are another reason to watch the games. They do not receive millions of dollars from their sport. In fact, most athletes need a job to support themselves in their sport. The participants in the games compete because they love their sport and they love competing. Some athletes receive endorsements if they do well, but the vast majority of athletes receive no economic gain from the Olympics. A common criticism of today’s professional athletes in America is they do not play with heart or passion, but only for the money. The Olympics are everything pro sports in the U.S. are not.

Another great aspect of the Olympics is that each participant represents their country. The sense of national pride from all athletes is amazing. To see a grown man standing atop the gold-medal podium, crying at the sound of his nation’s anthem is quite a sight. The athletes represent their country and their entire country cheers for them, uniting around the athletes. Here in the U.S., Yankee fans and Red Sox fans cheer for the U.S. baseball team, or Blackhawk fans and Red Wing fans cheer for the U.S. hockey team.

Arguably the most unifying moment, and biggest moment, in U.S. sports occurred at the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the U.S. beat the Soviets in hockey. It did not matter where you were from in the country or which professional team you supported, you were an American and ecstatic about the victory.

Athletes will often grab their country’s flag and take a victory lap, expressing their love for their country.

Because the Olympics are held every four years, each race, game or match is extremely important. The infrequency of the games increases the magnitude and intensity of the contests. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat are multiplied. If an athlete falters, he or she has to wait four years to get another chance. Athletes do not have many opportunities in the Olympics to begin with. If an athlete is fortunate, he or she competes in three different games. Some athletes compete in more, but the window of opportunity for an Olympic medal is small. In U.S. sports, a common phrase is “We’ll get them next year.” Well, there is no next year in the Olympics. It is, “We’ll get them in four years.”

The Olympics are a time when bickering countries can get together and, for two weeks, put aside their differences. This was never more evident than during the Cold War. The threat of nuclear war hung over the entire world. Yet, the Soviets, the Americans and their allies would compete against each other at the Olympics. In a sense, the Olympics are a utopian view of how the world could and should be, all countries getting along and competing fairly and passionately with each other.

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