Olympics

Recently, I’ve noticed that Americans just don’t watch the Olympics like we used to. Reports that NBC is losing millions on the televised coverage is confirmation but you can ask random people if they’ve caught the latest downhill skiing medal race and hear “No, but I heard so and so won….” or “Oh, I meant to watch that. Was that last night?” or “CNN twittered that Canada won so who needs to watch.” 
It all leaves me feeling a bit nostalgic. When I was a little girl, my house literally watched every minute of Olympic coverage every 4 years. I mean, if you missed it, you had to wait 4 more years to catch another glimpse of the games ~ it wasn’t acceptable to miss a moment of it! Jim McKay would offer short vignettes of the athletes, offering us an opportunity to learn about their personal stories of triumph and, often, repressed upbringing.
I remember the athletes from the USSR, stoic and serious, void of emotions to me. They were often stripped from their parents and raised in training facilities. The pressure to bring home the gold wasn’t for personal satisfaction but for a country’s very reputation. As a child, I remember feeling sympathy for them when they would fail to stand atop the podium for gold…which was a rarity. They won a LOT.

I sat in my livingroom and watched in utter amazement at Olga Korbut, imagining myself contorting my body just like her. Imagining the impossible.   Later, it was Nadia and Mary Lou. Moments of absolute greatness.
True, we didn’t have the distractions of today. It was often a one time shot at seeing history ~ no constant replay on umpteen networks. No twitter updates, no YouTube, no spoilers.
Instead, it was the world gathered around their livingroom televisions every day for the entirety of the games. From the torch lighting to the last minute of the closing ceremonies. National pride; pride in our athletes who were strictly amateur. There were no NHL players taking a break from multi-million dollar contracts.. the games were pure and involved sacrifice at many levels.
I’ll admit, I’m a little sad that Olympic broadcasting  has evolved to what it is today. Like the Labor Day Jerry Lewis Telethon, the sentimentality is less than it once was. We are so distracted today by so many, many things. Even so, Americans still care about the medal count. We DO still care about the performances and the world records and the unexpected superstars… we just seem to want the info in one minute ESPN updates.

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