The Summer Olympics begin this year the weekend of July 27th. Those who know me well are quite aware of the fact that I'm not the most athletically gifted person in the world. I was never one to join team sports or be a fan of getting sweaty and dirty while pushing my physical limits to extremes in the pursuit of athletic excellence. It may seem contradictory, in light of these facts, that I am a fervent fan of the Olympics. I admit it's a bit unusual for someone who is not all that athletic to be so dedicated to watching the penultimate two week period of all things athletically related.
Why am I such a fan? What is it about the Olympic Winter and Summer Games that captures the attention, imagination and hearts of the whole world? One reason is simply that very fact...it is a moment in time where the whole world is focused on one brief window, one narrow, specific place on the planet, where a small retinue of talented young people gather from every country, in peace, to compete in a variety of individual and group sports.
The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius", a Latin expression meaning "Faster, Higher, Stronger".
The Olympic Creed is...
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." (Olympic Motto & Creed, Wikipedia)During every Olympics, there are remarkable stories of incredible feats of athletic strength, courage and endurance that, any other time, would be considered unreachable, impossible to achieve. Yet, they do happen, and the blooming of the human spirit, the digging deep within that these young people do is what speaks to each of us in a way that is so touching. We collectively witness athleticism at its highest, most pure level....drama, unparalelled pressure and demands on the human body, excitement and patriotic fever run rampant. Indeed, many of the most memorable moments during the Olympic Games aren't of gold medal winning performances - they are of the enduring human stubborn refusal to give up that burns in the hearts of these athletes who push themselves to finish their race, their sport, their individual competition, because they are at the Olympics.
In ancient times, warriors would compete in the Greek Games in peace, setting aside their weapons and coming together in the spirit of the Games. This most vital component exists today in our modern Olympic Games and, I feel, is another reason the Olympics are such a unifying moment for the entire world. Thousands of hopeful young people gather together for this same noble concept. Most of them will not win a medal. For the majority of the athletes, simply winning a spot on their country's Olympic Team and making it to the Olympics is a dream beyond compare and a once in a lifetime experience that few are blessed to live.
For me, it is a two week period that is full of hope, and a purity of energy that lifts the whole world up. I watch everything during the Olympics and it is extremely important to me, when a U.S. athlete wins a medal, that we are able to witness the medal ceremony and hear our National Anthem being played. I get choked up every single time I hear the U.S. National Anthem played, and my emotions are racked higher during the Olympics. It is a "feel good" moment that lasts for two weeks and creates some of the most enduring memories.
If any of the people reading this post watched the last Summer Olympics with me, who among us will ever forget watching Michael Phelps break the swimming records and medal victories set by Mark Spitz in the 1970's? I watched, absolutely spellbound, wishing with all my heart for that young man to achieve the goals that so many doubted, scoffed and outright declared were impossible. And, he did achieve them...every single one. I watched every single event he competed in and I witnessed every single gold medal performance, as well as each medal ceremony that was televised. I experienced that euphoria that all sports fans feel when their team wins, but for me, it goes so much deeper than that simple desire. This year, Michael Phelps will be closing out his Olympic career at these Summer Games. I hope to watch him increase his medal winnings, and I look forward to seeing the upcoming new, young athletes who follow in his footsteps.
During those moments of watching Michael Phelps achieve his mutiple gold medal wins, and so many other Olympic performances, my heart and spirit were transported in a manner that I sometimes experience when I hear an especially beautiful piece of music, or witness a uniquely beautiful moment in nature....feel an especially bright moment of love for another. It is difficult to put into words, the emotions that I feel during the Olympic Games, but I am positive that the energy that is created during those two brief weeks every two years is very important to the overall energy of our planet Earth. I feel that it is a healing energy that takes place and I also believe the young people who compete in the Olympic Games are forever changed by their individual experiences. They then go forth to live their lives, it is to be hoped, and do more wonderful, positive things.
I believe that each country cares about the Olympic Games for more reasons than just winning. Yes, of course every athlete attending the Olympic Games dreams of winning that gold medal, standing on that podium and hearing their own National Anthem played. Beyond that ultimate moment, the Olympics themselves present an ideal - a wish and a dream of everything being possible and within the grasp of each athlete. The Olympic Games hold elation, promise...and possibly most importantly, the Games represent Hope. In these modern times, I cannot think of any single human emotion that is more important than to feel hopeful.
So, in these next two weeks, everyone who knows me well will sigh, shake their heads in slight amusement, and agree to not ask me to come to dinner, agree to not call me after 7 pm and then greet me again at the end of the Olympic Games. They know they will hear me wax rhapsodic about the highlights of the Olympic Games for the next couple of weeks, and they'll kid me about my borderline unreasonable devotion to not missing a single, exciting moment of televised coverage.
It's okay - they're used to me, and I'm used to them, and I am not offended when they find me amusing. I know that I'm a bit outside the norm in this regard. It makes me happy to watch the Olympic Games, plain and simple. In the coming two weeks, I am confident that I will witness some truly inspirational, amazing moments. I am equally confident that for two short weeks, this beautiful planet that I love so deeply will also bask in the higher vibration that is generated by the Olympic Games. For a short period of time, magnificent competition, experiences, emotions and memories will blaze brightly and proudly. And I will have been there to see it. My memories will be richer, my heart will be stronger, and my Soul will be gladdened.
Perhaps, for those of us not so athletically gifted, the Olympic Games are also a moment to simply appreciate what those who are truly athletically gifted can accomplish. At the end of the day, the Games are an exercise in pursuing excellence, pursuing dreams and being up at the top of a mountain, poised to jump out bravely into the unknown and grab victory in both hands. When you think about it, that's a noble undertaking for two otherwise ordinary weeks out of the year.