Watching the Winter Olympics this time around has been a rather nice experience, except it still falls short of the wonderful, enlightening, and interesting time I had watching the 1984 Games that took place in Sarajevo (remember Katarina Witt?). The reason that those particular games meant so much more to me is very specific. At that time, we were living in St. Albans, Vermont, way up in the Northwest corner of the state, near the Canadian border. Consequently, our TV reception included the CBC – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Their particular brand of sports coverage had (and hopefully still has) such an “equal opportunity” approach to the events they covered, as well as the nations that were participating. There simply was no hint of a sense of overwhelming national bias or over-the-top Canadian elegies to their own participants and/or teams.
While I am just as proud of our American athletes as anyone else, I also swell with a sense of joy and, yes, pride when any athletes, from whatever nation, compete well, do the best of which they are capable, and sometimes exceed their own or their home-land’s expectations, and all this, whether they win a medal or not! It seems that NBC (and, formerly, ABC) shows us only what they believe are the teams or individuals that are most likely to win – and especially so if they are Americans. The spirit of the Olympic games, as I feel it, has always been the sense of World Community, mutual respect, and the joy and universal (and borderless) spirit of sport, while all participants seek to deliver the best performance of which they are capable. That’s why the “Post Olympic” stories always interest me the most these days…those are the human interest tales that tell of athletes overcoming great odds in order to be able to participate, and work impossibly long and difficult hours to be able to afford the training and travel expenses (before the individual’s country will sometimes pick up the tab.) For the great majority of athletes attending and participating in the Olympics, just being there is the medal. Most will never have the honor or glory attendant upon having an Olympic medal placed around your neck, or to stand on a podium while proudly gazing at your country’s flag as it is raised, and hearing your national anthem played because of your accomplishment. Being given the opportunity to try their best on the world stage, and being able to share experiences with and among the great and the greatest is extraordinary, and more than enough reward for the efforts it took to arrive at the Games.
CBC covers them ALL. I had never really watched curling before 1984. I think I probably knew what it was before then, but I had never been given the chance to really watch it and see what excites those that play it. I will admit that, having watched it, it has not held my interest or fascination. But I’m glad that I had the option to watch and find out for myself, instead of the TV network deciding what I would or would not see. And I did develop a taste for watching the biathlon and the Nordic combined, which was seldom televised in the US until we started competing on a high-enough level in those sports to warrant our “national interest.” CBC has it all over American TV in broadcasting the Olympics…they make it feel truly international, and I miss it!
So, I enjoy watching people strive to win…always have. I enjoy it as much (or almost) as I would if I were the winner or participant myself. I guess you could call me a true “armchair Olympian.” Finishing with a medal or not, the efforts are so amazing to watch. Of course I was thrilled by Evan Lysacek’s win in men’s figure skating, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new talents of others that are maturing in their skills; disappointed in the scoring for Johnny Weir (who should have placed much higher in my own estimation), and a bit miffed at Yevgeny Plushenko’s attitude at not winning the gold. He had always been a wonderful skater to watch, and a great jumper, but I never saw evidence of the same level of work put into the artistry and expression in his skating programs, aspects which also carry a great deal of weight in scoring. I’m less impressed with him now, however. His sour grapes over not winning what he thought belonged to him have eclipsed much of the respect I had for him before the games began.
Gold, Silver, or Bronze…they all shine. Oh! But just being there and participating with others in something you love. Now that is a shining moment that will last long after the medal has tarnished.