In case you missed it, today was the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. I haven’t actually watched it yet, since I didn’t find a live feed, but I plan to later. From what I’ve read and seen online, it looks like quite the fanfare. It should be interesting. I’m not an obsessive watcher of the games, but I do enjoy it catching what I can, especially the figure skating and all of the skiing events. Oh, and the luge; that is amazing. I guess I just listed half of the winter sports, so I probably watch more than I think I do.
When I was a kid I loved skating–roller skating and ice skating. I was pretty good, too. I could skate backwards and make small jumps and go on one leg. In my mind I was graceful and fluid. I pictured myself skating like the beautiful girls in the Olympics and wished I had a handsome, strong partner who could pick me up over his head. Instead, I was stuck my sisters who would rather knock me over than help me with my form. One of them even skated over my hand once and cut my finger almost to the bone. It kind of took the fun out of it. Since I never took lessons, so I’m sure I wasn’t as much graceful and poised as I was slow and careful. But it didn’t matter. I think any kid who loves a sport at some point pictures themselves in the Olympics. It’s the epitome of athletic prowess. The dedication required for an athlete to compete at the Olympic level is beyond me. The personal stories are often so interesting, inspiring and yet sometimes heartbreaking to hear. So many of them give up much of what we call our daily lives to get there, focusing solely on their craft. I find it fascinating.
Of course, I find the whole idea of the Olympics fascinating. The fact that these games have been going on regularly since 1894 and include over 200 participating nations from all continents is mind blowing. We can’t even get our own two political parties to play well together, but we can have thousands of people from that many countries coming together for a common cause? This is like the Super Bowl on steroids. Everything I said about football and sports bringing people closer together is magnified for the Olympics. Whole nations are rallying behind their athletes. I’ve never been to a live Olympic event, but I imagine it’s an overwhelming experience. The energy and pride and competition must be tangible in the air. I’m sure I’d come back home and strap on my skates again, I’d be so inspired.
But one of the coolest things, in my opinion, about the entire Olympics is the Olympic Creed: 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. I’m sure every one of the athletes in Sochi right now are hoping to win a gold medal, yet that’s not really the point of it all. The point is simply to be there. To have practiced endlessly, competed for years, and shown up to do their best, against the best. It’s a good reminder that the win isn’t everything. Sometimes the win is the end. It’s the getting there that matters.