As the 2016 Olympic Games are coming to an end in Rio, I thought I’d write about the impact that watching the Olympics can have on all of us.
These Games have already changed our family life here in southern Minnesota. My 2.5-year-old daughter Maggie is now acutely aware of “stripes and stars” (although when she says it, it sounds more like ‘dripes and dars’. Both she and her 3.75-year-old sister Cambria can spot an American flag at five hundred feet and they immediately say, “dat’s our flag!” One of them even spotted a tiny flag on a Smucker’s jam jar as I strolled down the grocery aisle. When I backed up to look for it, it took me several minutes to find it.
I remember watching the Olympics as a kid. Mary Lou Retton’s performance in the 1984 Olympics inspired me to start taking gymnastics classes at the YMCA. This is me in my leotard in 1988, showing that I could drink from a straw while doing a handstand. (And somehow that wasn’t enough to get me onto the Olympic team. Shocking!)
I vividly remember the 1988 Seoul Games. That’s the year that Greg Louganis whacked his head on the diving board. (After that, I was just sure that every diver I saw for years and years was going to do the same thing!) I watched Florence Griffith Joyner and her enormous fingernails break records and win gold. And I was so excited that there was an Olympic gymnast also named Phoebe (Mills)! You have to remember that this was before Friends so Phoebe Cates and Phoebe Snow were the only two Phoebes anyone had heard of.
I think the Olympics are wonderful for so many reasons.
First, the Olympics inspire people to exercise. I’m sure there have been studies about the spike in gym memberships, class enrollments, etc. every four years. I’m all in favor for things that make the population healthier.
Second, it’s a real pleasure to watch people who are really good at what they do. They have all spent so much time preparing for this moment. There is excitement and nervousness, and nothing is decided ahead of time. There could be an amazing upset, or Michael Phelps could just win another gold medal; you never know!
Third, there seems to be a general spirit of friendly competition among the athletes (with a couple of exceptions of course). I get the feeling that they want to beat each other, but I don’t get the feeling that they want to hurt each other. That’s something that makes me uncomfortable about watching a couple of the NFL teams.
Finally, I love that the Olympics gives us something to talk about that doesn’t relate to the upcoming U.S. political election. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’d be just fine if I don’t have to hear about Clinton or Trump anymore.
Please share your favorite Olympic memory in the comments.
~ Phoebe DeCook
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