At long last, the Summer Olympic Games have arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a self-proclaimed Olympic junkie, I’m quite excited. I look forward to the Olympics in the same way that some people anticipate other life milestones.
For example, you may get a bright zing of happiness when you meet your grandchild for the first time. I get that same feeling when I see Michael Phelps swim the anchor leg of the 4×100-meter relay. While this might have something to do with the tiny Speedo he wears, I really can’t be certain.
Given the recent world tragedies and the deteriorating political tone here at home, I think we all need a hefty dose of the Olympic spirit. I’m tired of listening to politicians that sound like schoolyard bullies. I’d much rather watch athletes hurl pointy javelins across a field than endure presidential candidates slinging insults on Twitter.
In 1896, the modern Olympics were founded on the principles of international cooperation and sportsmanship. Since that time, athletes from around the world have gathered together every four years to compete.
Despite the best intentions of the Olympic movement, it has occasionally fallen prey to world events over the years. In 1916, 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were canceled because of two messy and unfortunate World Wars. It’s hard to gather together in peace and cooperation when much of the world is too busy trying to kill one another.
Even geopolitical disagreements have left their mark on the Games. In 1980 and 1984, respectively, the Americans and Soviets decided to boycott each other’s Olympic Games. Like sulky teenagers refusing to attend a birthday party, the two superpowers decided that not attending the Olympics in their rival’s country was better than attending.
This doesn’t make sense to me. If you don’t go to the birthday party, everyone else is going to eat all the cake. And Olympic cake is the best. It’s shiny and comes in three flavors – gold, silver and bronze. Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that? Silly, silly people.
The Olympics can be a powerful economic and political tool, as well. In 1936, a dude named Adolf Hitler hosted the Games in Berlin. He recognized that it was the perfect time to convince Germans, and the world, that reclaiming their nationalistic identity led to success. By getting back to their pure Aryan roots, they’d be more powerful than ever and the world would bow at their feet.
Unfortunately for Adolf, an African-American man named Jesse Owens was a hiccup in this Olympic vision. Mr. Owens’s four gold medals made him the hero of the Games – a fact that made Chancellor Hitler’s little, ugly mustache burn most annoyingly. Gotta love the Olympics.
No offense to fans of the NFL, NBA and MLB, but you just don’t get this same kind of drama and excitement.
Four years is definitely worth the wait.