There’s no other way to say this: I have an obsession with the Olympic Games. This obsession is no secret, nor does it come with shame or disgrace. I closely follow every host city bidding process for the upcoming and yet unannounced Olympiad. I know the difference between the Olympic Anthem and the Olympic Hymn and the Olympic Fanfare, and all of them give me chills every time my ears are graced by their tunes. I openly cry at the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, for the anticipation and secretiveness of its lighting overwhelm me, and its symbolism and power as a beacon for world unity inspire me more than I could ever put into words. I tear up at medal ceremonies when athletes display such pride for their successes and for their country. I spend days researching athletes and teams from my favorite countries, plus those dark horse athletes whose stories intrigue me. I openly am bored by and have negative opinions of most popular American sports, but I could and do watch seemingly endless hours of Olympic competition no matter the sport – and I actually read the sports section of the Globe and the Times for these rare occasions. For seventeen days every two years, my friends and family know that if they want to see me, they’ll have to be watching the Olympics with me, or at least discussing them in depth as they allow my squeals of excitement and my incoherent phrases of love for the Games.
Then there’s the whole international aspect. I am a loud and proud international relations student and nerd, and the Olympics are on the same level of admiration and awe for me as the United Nations and similar international organizations. To think that the alphabet defines your order during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony, not your permanent seat on the Security Council or your oil fields or your powerful army. To think that differences of religion, ethnicity, politics, and class are social constructs that for seventeen days come second to athleticism and physical ability, rather than first and dominant over daily human interaction and existence.
People roll their eyes at my idealism and sentimentality, saying that the Olympics have become nothing more than a gimmick for sponsors to gain customers and for nations to build some fleeting patriotism. They say that the unity inspired by the Olympics is nominal at best and just sentimental banter that is quickly forgotten in times of global disagreement. Humans will be humans, they say, for just as there will be another Olympics two years from now and then another and another, there will be wars and conflict.
Surely, there is merit to this argument. No one is perfect, everything is unfortunately political, and money and economics have penetrated our lives more than ever before. But that’s why the Olympics are so perfect: they allow us to accept these things as reality, and from there we can begin to look past differences to find unity. Your muscles don’t care about your country or region of the world, nor does your heart or legs or arms know the difference between ethnicities or religions. Strength against strength, stamina against stamina, will power against will power are all that matter in sport. What better way to celebrate our humanity than to bring together thousands of athletes to one city to compete for medals and glory that have no real dependence on your skin color or faith or education or identity, but rather medals and glory that celebrate what you can achieve?! Of course, these athletes represent nations and they may be inspired by succeeding for their country, but they are humans first and countrymen second. The Olympics shows us this more than any other event in the world.
Call me naïve or far-fetched or even wrong, but at the end of the day I’m a passionate global citizen seeking hope and inspiration for my generation. I find that hope every time I think of the thirty Olympiads of the past and present, and the dozens of Olympiads to come. Idealism comes to life through the Olympics, and whether it’s London 2012 or Sochi 2014 or Rio 2016 or PyeongChang 2018, I wouldn’t have it any other way.