Opinion corner: Olympics an amazing spectacleIt’s pretty amazing the spectacle that comes every two years with the Olympics, especially this year’s Summer Olympics.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
It’s pretty amazing the spectacle that comes every two years with the Olympics, especially this year’s summer games.
Not so much the opening ceremonies (by the way, not so great this year) or watching some of the greatest athletes in the world compete — although, don’t get me wrong, those elements of the Olympics are spectacular.
But the two things I enjoy the most are watching athletes showcase the tremendous pride in their respective countries and how, for a few weeks, we immerse ourselves in watching feats of athleticism in obscure sports that we’ll never hear about again until the next Olympics roll around.
Synchronized diving, fencing, handball, judo — these are just a few of the many sports that people around the world are watching during these 2012 Summer Olympics in London that will garner hardly any, if not zero, media attention again until 2016.
But that doesn’t take away from the athletes that compete in those obscure sports.
Just as we watch the maturation of higher-profile athletes like Usain Bolt in track or Michael Phelps in swimming as they prepare for the Olympics, the lesser-known competitors in rowing, gymnastics or even rifle shooting are training extraordinarily hard to earn their spots in the Olympics as well.
That’s the great thing about sport — the fact that is comes in so many different capacities.
I’m probably not going to buy a ticket to watch a competitive weightlifting event anytime soon or even watch it on TV if it were at any time other than the Olympics. But when these weightlifters are taking part in an event among the best of the best in the world and doing so on behalf of their country, it makes it special. And that I’ll watch.
I’ll watch because it’s a true spectacle to watch how someone reacts to having won a gold medal — or any medal for that matter. Just like with any sporting accomplishment, I’m sure the athlete’s emotions are running substantially high because it’s the culmination of hard work over an extended period of time.
But it goes to a completely different level when the athlete is representing their country. There’s something unique about seeing countries compete against one another in athletic competition.
It’s one thing for NBA players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to face off in the NBA Finals, but it goes to another level when those top players within their professional sports league compete against top players such as Tony Parker and Pau Gasol from foreign nations like France and Spain.
That pride not only exists in the athletes, but it’s further fueled by the enthusiasm that exists in the citizens of each nation rooting these athletes along.
Call it nationalism. Call it what you want. The reality is we’re proud to be Americans and we’ll be heavily rooting for the U.S. to defeat China in the overall medal count — just as I’m sure Chinese citizens will be heavily rooting for their nation to beat the U.S..
So we don’t have a world rivalry anymore like the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. I don’t think that takes away from competitive athletic rivalries such as the U.S. and Spain in Olympic men’s basketball or the U.S. and France in men’s swimming.
Did it mean that much more to watch the Americans defeat the Soviets in 1980? Sure, but you’re just not always going to get that each Olympics and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We’re still watching the best athletes in the world compete for national pride and that, in itself, is quite the spectacle.
Brian Willhide is a news writer with The Sun and a frequent contributor to Opinion Corner