Over the years, I have watched a wide range of Olympic events, including some that I admit I probably would not have watched had they not been under the Olympic banner. This year, between the CBC network’s curated coverage, supplemented by so many streaming opportunities for specific events, it made it so easy (and maybe a little addictive) to follow the action.
The variety reminds me a little of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” that I used to watch as a kid (back when we only had 12 channels). The packaging of that show appealed to this curious young mind as it was a veritable smorgasbord of sporting events to discover. If I was more athletically inclined, who knows what inspiration could have been sparked later in life.
Unfortunately, my weak eye-hand coordination, my lack of overall coordination, my lack of physical stature and the lasting trauma of dodgeball in my pre-teens, prevented me from pursuing a career in sports.
Even after the Covid-19 lockdowns, it’s not like I was running out of viewing options, given the long list of binge-worthy streaming programming I had accumulated over the years. The Olympic coverage remained an enjoyable change of pace that I looked forward to.
Plus, as a recent retiree, watching the Olympics seemed even more special and more symbolic to me, as I could take in more coverage than I usually would have back in my working days. This year, the Olympics were an additional reminder of my new found freedom from the “9 to 5”.
Why do I watch the Olympics?
It’s not like I know anyone personally involved. It’s not like I will ever be an Olympian. It’s not like I am invested in any one sport specifically, though I admit that I naturally gravitate to a few like track and field, cycling and swimming (probably because I know that swimming and diving will never be in my own wheelhouse).
But given my own experience with trying to stay fit and training for my own personal goals in running and cycling, I do have a hint of what professional athletes go through.
I appreciate the discipline, the training and the drive needed to reach their personal goals. I appreciate the physical preparation and quality diet needed to make those goals a reality. I appreciate the time that it takes to accomplish all that and to focus one’s entire life on those goals. It takes sacrifice, hard work and dedication.
The mental preparation and the perseverance to keep with it are also key elements.
I am also aware of the setbacks that can occur, like when I contracted a bad case of shingles just as I was starting to train for a half-marathon. Or similarly, the reality of the human body’s complaints in the form of problems with shins, knees, hips, iliotibial bands, sprains, bloody toenails or fallen toenails. Then there is the time needed to properly heal and the adjustments needed to prevent further injury.
Parenthetically, no matter where the Olympics are held, there will always be competitors having to deal with jet lag. In recognizing how discombobulated I get when traveling abroad and how I don’t always feel at my best, I marvel at the Olympians’ accomplishments in light of this factor.
Even in the face of adversity one must maintain one’s focus and optimism. It is a bit of a metaphor for life in general, isn’t it?
When you sum it up, in its purest form, athletics is to me a convergence of science, art, talent and spirituality (and maybe a little luck).
When all of these key elements line up, the look on the athletes’ faces when they cross the finish line says it all.
To me, the Olympics are a showcase of the miracle of the human body, seeing people in the best shape of their lives, meeting or surpassing their goals and expectations, and sometimes breaking records.
In this world where “passable”, “adequate” and “good enough” are often the norm, the Olympics restore my faith that the pursuit of excellence is alive and well. To see elite athletes at the top of their game is pure inspiration to me.
When the Olympics are over, I take with me the inspiration to take better care of my body. It doesn’t mean I need to train hard each and every day, but just enough to keep off any extra pounds from the occasional indulgence of Ruffles potato chips and to prevent my triceps from looking like loose bat wings.
It also reminds me of my own ability to persevere in light of challenges, knowing that if I put my mind to it and with the proper preparation, I did run 21.1 km, and could possibly do it again if I put my mind to it and allocated sufficient time.
Also, much like my fascination with the Eurovision Song Contest, I am strongly drawn to events in which politics, religion and ideological differences are cast aside for the sake of sharing in activities which unite us. This is what keeps me coming back for more.
Whether it was a good idea to host the Olympics during a pandemic is not for me to say, nor is my opinion important.
I am grateful for all of the effort that went into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, shining a light on the human spirit in the face of adversity and sending ripples of inspiration around the world.
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Have a great day,