Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ohh, 'lympics...

Here we are again. Has it really been 4 years? No. It's been only 2. Spare me the argument that it's been four years since the "Winter" Olympics. It's been less than 2 years since the Olympic anthem last came blasting out from my TV for two solid weeks. The exact games being played might differ, but the Olympics itself seems present. There's never enough time to feel like it went away.

With each new Games, I claim to be less interested, but every year I get drawn in. It's not necessarily the events. I think I'm with the majority of people who prefer the Summer Games to the Winter ones. Winter's got Figure Skating, and Speed Skating, Skiing and relative newcomer, Snowboarding. Those can be fun and dramatic. But mostly I respond to the individual stories of the Olympians. So many of them have spent their whole lives training for this moment and even if they never medal, getting there is its own colossal victory. At no time is this feeling more strongly felt than the Opening Ceremonies.

Each time, the host country tries to out do the Open Ceremony that came before it in terms of spectacle. While all that is awesome, I like the parade of the Olympic teams into the stadium best. The athletes all look so thrilled. This is their dream come true. For some countries, there are only have a handful of representatives - some countries only have ONE person. But they wave their flags and are filled with pride and I find it impossible not to be touched by that. In this moment, everyone is celebrating them just for making it this far. Maybe they will hear their anthem played while standing upon the winner's podium, and maybe not. While they take their lap around the stadium, everyone just celebrates the journey that brought them there.

The usual sense of jubilation in this moment is what made the tragedy faced by the team from Georgia yesterday even harder to accept. Earlier in the day Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian luge athlete, was killed when he lost control of his sled while traveling nearly 90 miles/hr during a training run. Not only did this throw the safety of the luge course into doubt, it was also a horrible blow for all the athletes, especially the Georgians who would now have to enter the Stadium without their teammate and friend. The Opening Ceremony was dedicated to Kumaritashvil. Flags were lowered to half staff and the entire stadium fell silent in observance of his memory.

The delegation from Georgia marched into the stadium wearing black arm bands to honor Kumaritashvil. A black ribbon ran across the top of their flag as well. Some of the athletes and coaches fought back tears. As the group marched into the stadium, they received a standing ovation from the crowd.

It's certainly a somber note to start the Olympics and I hope that there are many stirring and uplifting moments that Games are known for to help bolster the spirit of the Georgian Team and the Games in general. Vancouver has had uncharacteristically warm and rainy weather, with a lack of snowfall. Oh, Canada... Climate change, people! It's no joke!

I look forward to rooting for the Americans across the board, hoping that the Canadians can finally win a gold medal in an event while they are the Host Country (it didn't happen in '76 or '88) and having at least one figure skating routine where the skater just cannot stop falling. Hey, I know it's their dream and all, but like I said, it's a dream just to get there. I have dreams too. I want to see a repeat of Laetitia Hubert from France at the 1992 Albertville Games. AMAZING. Now once for good luck, GO TEAM USA!

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