The Olympics are upon us. I know. I’ve spent a lot of my week working in between speed skating heats and figure skating programs. Good times.
But for some reason, this time around people have decided to make a loud (and completely accurate) scene about how the Olympics are political and corrupt. Yeah, we have a country whose National Olympic Committee (NOC) and rulebreakers are sitting this one out, a country known for score fixing, doping scandals, and all sorts of other underhanded tactics to win (which has always confused me, because their athletes are typically pretty skilled). Countries have called truces to keep their athletes from being banned. And countries have become very good at slapping thick layers of makeup on their human rights violation to be awarded Host City rights. (I about spit out my tea when I heard earlier this week that Beijing is hosting the Winter Games in 2022. Not bad for a country that lost the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games due to human rights violations.)
As a promoter of peace and respect, the International Olympics Committee knows that it’s a temporary situation, gone as soon as the current Games cycle is over. But there are people who enjoy focusing on this aspect of the Olympics, and hating the Olympics…or at least vocally hating them while watching them.
What I really want to know, though, is why people are choosing the game where South Korea and North Korea are putting aside years of hate to work together and to allow the North Korean athletes to participate.
Actually, that’s not true. They’re welcome to focus on the political aspect of the Games.
For me and many others, and certainly for the sports involved, watching the Olympics is about watching these athletes lay it all out there. Everything they’ve worked for over their life, that has consumed every free moment of their life, asking insane sacrifices of them…comes down to a few minutes of performance. To face their nerves, their inner critic, and past demons to show what they have been working toward. In some cases, it’s to compete against someone else who has similarly given up their whole life to pursuing this sport, this level of athletic and competitive fitness, and see who’s having the better day. Sometimes, it’s to be judged by people who most likely haven’t seen what this athlete has done coming in (unless they’re a returning Olympian, or competing in multiple events within their sport) and even more likely have never actually attempted the sport themselves.
From where I sit, it comes from the same space as American Ninja Warrior and pretty much every single performing art out there. People working, often on their own (with the aid of coaches and other crew as needed), to do better than they did the day before. Challenging themselves. Having to take failures as moments to learn and make adjustments. We can sit here for two weeks and attack what goes on behind the scenes (sometimes not so behind the scenes)…or we can take a page from these athletes’ example and find ways to push ourselves to be better every day, to learn from the inevitable mistake, and to reach what might seem like impossible goals.
That’s how things get done.