One reason is that it’s not football. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike football, but the season goes on forever. For two weeks during the Olympics there are a whole variety of things going on that you don’t see every Sunday afternoon and every Monday night and all day Thanksgiving and New Years—things like downhill and slalom, luge and bobsled, short track, hockey and figure skating. Each event is the peak of quality. The outcome of each is critical.
The second thing I love about the Olympics is the stories. A male friend once complained, “Why do they waste so much TV time on all that background stuff? Just show me the competition!” But it is the background stuff that I love. Each athlete is the main character in his or her own story, a story full of obstacles to overcome, a story whose happy (or unhappy) ending is about to be played out before the cameras. Admittedly, a psychologist friend of mine calls the Olympics “a celebration of out-of-balance lives.” Another friend, whose teen-age daughter just missed the Olympic cut a few years ago, threatened to make her a T-shirt that said, “I can’t; I have to practice.” But those stories inspire me to strive harder in all I do to be the best I can be—which includes my writing, my work with children, my walk with the Lord.
But I think the biggest reason why I love the Olympics is that for two weeks we imagine what it would be like if all the world’s conflicts took place on athletic fields, mountain slopes and ice rinks instead of battle fields. In ancient Greece a truce was proclaimed during the Olympic games. Wars were suspended, legal disputes and the death penalty were forbidden. Unfortunately we can’t count on that in 2010. The Vancouver security budget is $900-million! But for two weeks the headlines will be about gold medals and new records. That doesn’t mean suffering in Haiti will end, the Greek economy will suddenly stabilize or Iran will promise not to use its new nuclear capability. 1968 was an era of student upheaval and assassinations. But for two weeks we imagine how the world could be.