Despite growing up in the heart of Dixie, I find it hard to muster an ounce of enthusiasm for sports. Not football, not soccer, not badminton, not even Quidditch (sorry, J.K.). I go to the Super Bowl parties for the food and the college football games for the halftime show (I’m a sucker for pop songs played with brass instruments, what can I say?). Championship games of many conferences come and go and I don’t bat an eyelash. I have a finite reserve of enthusiasm to dedicate to sporting events and it all goes to the Olympics.In a time where nationalism is more synonymous with a hatred of others than a pride of self… In a time where Pyeonchang’s $100 million dollar stadium will be torn down after just four uses and Maracana Stadium became a source of blight in Rio de Janeiro just six months after the closing ceremony… In a time where exalted experts and coaches betrayed the vulnerable people they were trusted to train under the veil of making champions……My fave is problematic, to say the least.And yet, I can’t help but look at the Olympics as a fascinating microcosm of history, politics, and culture throughout time. The  Olympic Games are pride and scandal. Triumph and misery. Last chances and renewed hope. The Olympics show humanity at its peak. I’m not just talking about the athlete’s feats of prowess, agility, and strength. I’m talking about in 1992 at the Barcelona games when Brit, Derek Redmond ripped his hamstring during the 400 meter semi-final and as he hobbled to the finish line his father broke past security to help him complete the race. Before Usain Bolt, there was Jesse Owens, who demolished Hitler’s premise of the Berlin Games being a showcase for the excellence of the Aryan race through his record-setting performance and his barrier-breaking friendship with German athlete Luz Long. In 2000, Cathy Freeman represented Aboriginal Australians in her home country by winning gold in the 400 meter final and still works today to close the gap between indigenous and nonindigenous Australians. But the pressure of being in the company of the world’s elite can be too much. This year’s upcoming Games in Pyeongchang will be without the Russian team, traditionally one of the countries with the highest level of participating athletes, because of their pervasive doping problem.  In Beijing in 2008, Cuban athlete Angel Matos was disqualified from the bronze medal taekwondo match on a technicality and then kicked the referee in the face and got banned from the Olympics for life. In 1904, while running the marathon Fred Lorz’s leg cramped. So his manager picked him up, drove him for eleven miles until the car broke down, and then Lorz continued on foot and was awarded gold until he got called out by spectators. For me, the Olympic Games is where history meets humanity. Regardless of race, religion, or nationality, the Olympics show us ourselves.


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