Olympics offer unique moral perspective

I’m not a huge fan of winter in general. Having lived in the South for most of my life, I don’t have much of an appreciation for cold weather.

However, there are a couple of things that are cool about this winter so far. This winter gave us a snow day, which is a rarity at Tech. The other thing that’s going on this winter is the huge event that everyone has been talking about: the Winter Olympics hosted by Canada, our neighbor to the north.

Maple leaves, ham-bacon and “eh?” are the things that usually come to mind when I think about Canada. But over the past two weeks, the entire world has had its eyes on Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. And justifiably so, as the Olympic games are usually pretty awesome, in my opinion.

The Olympics gives us a chance to watch bizarre sports that we only get to see once every four years. Take curling for example—who knew that it could be so enthralling to watch ginormous stones get hurled across ice that is being feverishly swept by two loudly yelling individuals? Or the biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting rifles. I still don’t quite see the connection between guns and skiing, but it’s entertaining to watch nonetheless.

Rather than doing homework or laundry or whatever is next on the list, I often find myself tuning in to watch another Olympic event. For many of us, the Olympics are a fun diversion from our everyday routine and nothing more. But for many Olympic athletes and participating countries, a lot more is riding on the line.

For one thing, there is no other tradition of this magnitude that the entire world gets to participate in. Just thinking about the coordination behind the event as a whole is staggering. With over 2000 athletes and over 80 participating countries this year, the Olympics literally brings the world together for a couple of weeks.

That is the beauty of the Olympic games—it is comprised of countries around the world participating in sport for the sake of sport. No border conflicts, no trade disagreements, no cultural misgivings; these days, it is generally a drama-free zone. It has not always been like that, which makes me appreciate the Olympic games even more. I find it incredible, and reassuring, to see so many countries gathered together in one location without any of the tensions that permeate international politics.

As a whole, the Olympics are a celebration of humanity. The amazingly talented athletes from around the globe exemplify that sentiment, as they give it all they have. These individuals are positive role models and provide inspiration. Olympic athletes are not born as medal winners; they work hard throughout their lives to achieve greatness. They are living proof that dedication, hard work and perseverance do pay off.

I was watching speed skating a few days ago, and it was intense. Just when it seems like athletes are out of breath or about to collapse from exhaustion, they push forward with incredible determination, which is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. These athletes gather together every four years not for the sole purpose of competing for personal glory, but rather to represent the people of an entire nation on a global stage.

These Olympians become a focal point of national pride for many nations, large or small. The Olympics gives people around the world a glimmer of hope and a chance to be proud of their homelands, which is more valuable than we realize in an age of political and economic turmoil. The games give everyone a chance to shine.

I do acknowledge that this article has been chock-full of rainbows, butterflies and other happy thoughts relating the Olympics to some perfect fantasy world where everyone gets along. It would be naïve to think that just because two countries get along at the Olympic games that they can learn to get along otherwise. But, it’s a start; it shows that people are indeed capable of collaboration and mutual support. And the mere presence of that, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is enough to inspire hope in the hearts of many people. Call me an idealist, but hope goes a long way. Many nations have experienced great change motivated by nothing else but a message of hope.

This is why the games are still important and relevant in this day in age. It’s about so much more than merely finding out who can dance the best on ice or who the best bobsledder is. It’s about unity. It’s about hope. It’s about celebrating the world as we know it.