For almost all of us, the Olympics have provided memories that have lasted a lifetime. We can all measure how old we were, or where we were, when we recall Olympic moments both from our youth and through adulthood.
For example, who among us (of a certain age) does not remember, as if it were yesterday (or so it seems), Mike Eruzione’s “shot heard ’round the world” when he scored the game-winning goal that defeated the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid? Or when Bruce Jenner (now Caitlin Jenner) won the decathlon in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics? We could go on-and-on ad infinitum describing the scenes from the highlight reel of Olympic moments scrolling through our mind.
During the era of the Cold War, the Olympics served as a proxy for the battle between the United States and the former Soviet Union in what was perceived as the contest between democracy vs. communism, freedom vs. repression. But with the Cold War long over, the political overtones of the Olympics have all but disappeared, which has been a good thing. Although it would be nice to see America’s Justin Gatlin win the gold in the 100 meter dash, sports fans of all nationalities have thrilled to watch Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (the fastest man ever) sprint to victory-after-victory-after-victory in the last two Olympics — and no doubt will be rooting for him and his Jamaican teammates to make it a triple-medal three-peat.
The Olympics have something for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest among us. There are enough sports competitions and more than enough heroes for everyone to have their own favorite athlete to root for. Still for others, the elaborate pageantry of the opening ceremonies put on by the host country constitutes a spectacle that draws in all of us and establishes the magnitude and specialness of the games.
This is not to say that the Olympics are all fun and games. As with any event that draws world-wide attention and that involves billions of dollars, the Olympics have been plagued by controversy of all kinds. From Hitler’s 1936 Olympics that fed into Nazi propaganda, to the judging controversies of the Cold War era, to the tragedy of the terrorist attack in Munich in 1972, to doping scandals, to the the more recent accusations of bribery of Olympic officials by host countries, the Olympics have fallen far short of its own creed:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”
But despite all of the controversies, the Olympic spirit has survived and the present games in Rio de Janeiro are no exception. We hope all of our readers find the time to enjoy the 2016 games and to do so with their families and friends. Even in this age of on-demand television and live streaming on personal devices, the Olympics are best-enjoyed as a shared experience.
They are only here for two weeks — so make the most of them.