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Embrace the Summer Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Games are finally here and despite some negativity the Olympics are still great.

Atlanta Olympic by nghiem vo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Embrace the Summer Olympics

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

The Olympics are my favorite thing. I don’t just mean my favorite sporting event, or my favorite thing to watch on TV. I mean my favorite thing. Like, I love pizza, I love the show Parks and Rec, and I love the sound made when Eric Clapton plays the guitar. But I don’t love any of those things as much as I love the Olympics.

Where else can you find such a unique and rich blend of competition, spirit, emotion, and culture? Spend a few hours watching Olympic coverage and you will see emotion as raw as your favorite reality show, and competitive struggles as fierce as… your favorite reality show. You will learn new things about a different culture. (Just as you would on your favorite TV show – provided your favorite show is Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.)

If you enjoy sports, the Summer Olympics are an entertainment buffet of biblical proportions.

It contains all the sports you already love (Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, etc.), the sports you love once every four years (Swimming, Gymnastics, Track & Field), as well as sports you have never seen before.

Of course, the Olympics are not a flawless institution. It is run by the International Olympic Committee, an “organization” (Read: greedy Bureaucracy) that has a history of implementing absurd broadcast regulations and abusing host cities with little regard for sustainability. Recently, the IOC has overseen national and sport governing bodies making appalling decisions such as; effectively banning athletes for using non-performance enhancing drugs, racist equipment restrictions, and setting sexist uniform standards.

Another complication of this Summer Olympiad is, of course, the global pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 is taking place in the summer of 2021 – and even this seems risky as the COVID-19 virus continues to ravage Japan.  But if this version of the Olympics did not happen now, it never would.  There is much more understanding about the virus than there was in July of 2020.  Athletes and other personnel have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.  The historic decision to postpone the Games a full year shows that decision makers are taking precautions at least somewhat seriously.  So was the ruling to not allow fans, an unfortunate consequence of the times, and one that will (hopefully) be unique in Olympic history.

But the lack of in-arena atmosphere at some events will not diminish the pure emotion always elicited by the athletes. Seeing a competitor tear up as they stand on the medal podium while their national anthem plays and they realize all their hard work has made their dreams come true is a distinct glimpse into the best version of the human spirit.

The IOC has also warned athletes to make no social protests during events in Tokyo. This is disappointing because social protests are actually intrinsic to the history of the Olympic Games. But if the current political climate tells us anything, you can expect that there will be a defiant protest of some sort during these Games.

John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Peter Norman 1968

The Olympics are not about governing bodies.

They are about the competitors and their passion. The athletes have decided to show up to Tokyo. Trust them. We live in a time when athletes are great at using their platform to be outspoken. They will be the authors of the lasting memories from these Olympics.

So enjoy these Summer Games. Root for your country. Or don’t. This only happens every four years (at best). And sports are the greatest escape.

Ross loves sports, he loves history, but he really loves sports history. When he isn't running, hiking, or otherwise participating in outdoor recreation, he is researching college basketball so that he can finally make a perfect bracket this March. A native of St. Louis, he is a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. For someone who currently works in marketing, he is a shockingly awful self-promoter, as evidenced by his paltry Twitter follower count.

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