The TV has been on a lot at our house this week. Ever since Peggy Fleming skated away with the gold medal at Innsbruck, I have loved the Olympics. Maybe it’s sappy; maybe there are cheats; but I love the emotional high of athletes who have focused and trained literally for years, testing their skills against the best in the world. I love seeing records teeter and fall daily as adrenaline shifts everyone into high gear.
They teach us geography. Five-year-old Bella proclaimed herself to be for Korea in the volleyball because it’s near China.
“Where’s China?” her three-year-old brother demanded.
So we got out the map and started locating countries we saw competing. They won’t remember them all, but at least the names will sound familiar some time in the future when they need to. They saw them compete; they watched them strive; they witnessed the joy and the disappointment of real people.
Loyalties at our house are sometimes in question. We pull for the Brazilian beach volleyball players and the South African runners. How can we not when we have called those places home? I glimpsed Mozambique in the opening ceremonies. During the bike races we reveled in the shaded lanes and quaint English houses so similar to those where we lived in Berkshire. And did you see what dominated the arena during the opening extravaganza? Glastonbury Tor, the setting of my novel by that name. Although the abbey at its foot was a center of English Christianity for a thousand years, the Celts believed the caverns beneath the Tor to be the gates of hell. I found it fitting that the horrors of the Industrial Revolution emerged from its core.
“A celebration of lopsided lives,” a psychologist friend calls the Olympics. She’s right. After spending her high school years at the pool instead of other teen activities, the daughter of another friend of ours came within hundredths of a second of qualifying for the Olympics only to be disappointed. I remember her dad saying she needed a T-shirt that said, “I can’t; I have to practice.”
So is it worth it, or not? Would we be better off without this temptation to cheat the system? Do you watch? Or do you turn off live TV and catch up on videos during the Olympics?