by Melissa Brunner
I admit it - I am a sucker for the Olympic games. It doesn't matter if it's winter or summer. I will spend hours watching sports I'd never watch at any other time in the four years between their moments in the sun. I mean, really, when else do you get to watch the cross country skiing and shooting spectacle that is biathlon?
It could be argued that, with so many more international competitions these days, the Olympics have lost their value. You might wonder how there is any sense of national identity when so many athletes train in the U.S. or other countries outside their own. But as I watched the competition unfold, I felt a sense the Olympic spirit was alive and well and that athletes really do continue to hold the Olympics on a different level. During the opening ceremonies, you heard former Olympians describe how the experience made them feel that were competing for something larger than themselves and their sport. Sure, they said, there are other world championships, but the Olympics truly made them feel they were representing their country.
As for the Olympic spirit, you could see it when the silver and bronze medalists in one event lifted the gold medal winner atop their shoulders for a victory march before the crowd. Norweigian cross country skiers embraced and dedicated their medals to a teammates' brother, who died suddenly. Competitors in the women's slope style rushed to embrace an opponent who suffered a frightening crash yet still insisted on continuing to the bottom of the hill under her own power. Team figure skating gave us a new level of interaction among the athletes in arguably one of the games' most popular competitions. And you need only see the tears in the athletes' eyes as their nation's anthem plays and their flag is raised to know that the gold medal is truly special.
I love the Olympics for an opportunity to see the world come together in a way that happens only once every two years (summer/winter). In this era when technology and modern transportation can make the world can seem so small, it's nice to see it translated with a human touch.