Last week when my editor asked me to write about the Olympics, I jumped at the chance. It’s not just the Olympics in general, but my favorite of the two: the Winter Olympics. Big air, larger ice surfaces and fresh “pow” as far as the eye can see! As I sat in my house on Friday night watching the opening ceremony and contemplating what angle I would write this piece from, I kept noticing how most of the talk in the room was about what had already gone wrong. My brain started turning: this could be a great story. I mean, after all, we don’t even need to come up with material on the Russians —they do it themselves. Hell, I’m surprised Vladimir Putin even showed up to the opening ceremony with his shirt on. (If I were him, I would have sat in my throne wearing a golden banana hammock and the pelt of the tiger I hunted earlier that morning)
So where do we begin? Oh yes, there is the whole homophobia thing going on. Bravo to the rest of the world though, as countries like Canada produced commercials for the games that included with an overtly gay doubles luge team just lugeing it up. Nevertheless, the iron fist of Siberia would not have any of those shenanigans in the Motherland. On the day of the opening ceremony, Russia arrested four gay rights activists in St. Petersburg.
The homophobia of this year’s games is not all the media has been reporting about, however. In the days leading up to the games, I heard as many reports on the conditions the press was living in than the athletes’ preparations and trial runs themselves. Reporters and journalists were uploading pictures of bees still in the honey, missing lights and toilet paper, and let’s not forget the shirtless portraits of Putin riding various mammals adorning the hotel rooms that came to a cost of about $2 million. Effective spending, right? I wonder if I could find one of those on eBay.
With all the media reports, I almost found myself slipping into the anti-Russia propaganda. I wanted to point and laugh at how the infrastructure wasn’t finished and how preposterous a culture not my own was to me. I know that sounds terrible, but you all did it too. But I said almost slipped. I was so close, and then something else came on the TV screen. A mountain covered in fresh powdery snow and athletes, skiers and snowboarders getting ready to do what they have been training to do for much more than four years—for their whole life.
This is when it hit me, and I’m happy it did. The Olympic Games are not about sub-par hotel rooms, xenophobia or shirtless Russian presidents, although that last one is kind of inevitable. They are instead about the beauty of sport and a celebration of different cultures and countries coming together to compete with and against one another. It wasn’t the athletes who were complaining about the conditions. Sure some of them poked fun at the fact that the men’s and women’s bathrooms were not even separated by a wall, but are there to do what they have been dreaming of for years: to compete at the highest level they can, and to hopefully feel the sweet embrace of their country’s flag draped around their shoulders while they stand on the highest tier of the podium with a smile almost as bright as their medal.
We, the audience, almost lost sight of the true meaning of these games because of biased reporters who like to focus on anything other than their job, apparently. Sure the hotel rooms are not the best, but man up and just be happy that you get to witness firsthand the emotional rollercoaster that is the 22nd Winter Olympic Games. Pay no attention to their reports. Instead, focus on how that snow is gently falling right before Olympic gold medalist Devin Logan drops in or how that ice is glass just before the puck drops. Choose to focus and cheer for our athletes to win, not just for themselves, but for our country. Cheer for the athletes who have lost, for they left everything they had out on the mountain, the track, or the ice. Cheer for the fact that the world is still a good and accepting enough place that 88 countries and over 2,800 athletes can come together in one setting and partake in the majesty of sport. And last but not least, at the top of your lungs cheer for the stars and stripes. USA! USA! USA!
Sure we may not agree with everything that Russia and Vladimir Putin have said and done, but the rest of the world are still guests in their country, so they need to obey their laws. And hey, who knows, maybe the camaraderie of the world can eventually change Putin’s outlook on a few things. After all, do you believe in miracles?