Admit it. You’ve been watching the Rio Olympics every chance you get. If you happen to be home during the day they replace the awful stuff that’s usually there. Truth be told, they’re also replacing the awful stuff that gets shown at prime time.
For my money, there’s no more compelling story than the story of competition. It takes place in real time and you don’t know the outcome until it happens. Multiply that a hundred fold and you know why the Olympics are so popular.
But as I have watched the Olympics I have found myself saying “Wow!” over and over again. Here’s why:
- Rio is beautiful. Yeah, yeah. I know there are all kinds of problems. There is certainly pollution. I know about the poverty. We ought not overlook that. But have you seen those panoramic shots? Have you feasted your eyes on Copacabana Beach? Did you see the countryside during the bicycling competitions? Rio is now on my list of places I’d like to go. Wow!
- Bicycling is dangerous. I’m a bicyclist and I’ve had my share of close calls. But they were nothing compared to the crashes in both the men’s and women’s events. The long road races were extremely compelling without the accidents. Once the accidents started taking place they became even more compelling. …And those close finishes! Wow!
- Swimming is exciting. This is another sport in which I participated. In high school I swam butterfly, individual medley, and freestyle. Swimming put me in the best shape of my entire life. In high school swimming was a sport not many students came to watch. They didn’t know what they were missing. To me there isn’t anything much more exciting than a race that ends with hundredths of seconds between the contenders. Have you seen Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Cody Miller, and Ryan Lochte? Wow!
- I will never understand how kayakers do what they do. In a raging current they navigate through poles hanging down. Sometimes they even go under water and spin the whole kayak around. (How do they hold their breath through all of that?) Wow!
- The reaction time of volleyball players is off the charts. I’ve played my fair share of backyard and intramural volleyball. It makes me appreciate even more what those players can do. Digging the ball out of the net, blocking shots that are coming at who-knows-how-many miles per hour, and driving the ball down into an open area on the floor keep me amazed shot after shot. Wow!
- Competition is a good thing. Controversial decisions were made prior to these games that allowed participants who had been doping to take part in their events. Much of that came to a head in the Women’s 100 Meter Breast Stroke race between American Lilly King and Russian Yulia Efimova. You can read all about that here, but the way King handled it was controversial. I, for one, think she handled it correctly. At any rate, competition brings out both good and bad. You see how it brings out the best in Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. They rise to the occasion. Cheating and doping is the worst of competition. But it almost always comes out in the end. All in all, the incredibly close competition between world class athletes makes me say: Wow!
- Where else do the nations come together like this? Did you happen to see the North Korean and South Korean gymnast take a selfie together? Where else could that have happened? Though their countries are bitter enemies, these are just two girls trying their best to score well and strive for medals. They see one another as human beings, not as political machines. Wow!
What is it about the Olympics that makes you say “Wow!”?