The Vancouver Winter Olympics have just begun with a spectacular (if not technically perfect) opening ceremony. In two short weeks, all of the medals will have been awarded, and the athletes will a have left the Olympic village, many headed to their next competition.
I did not grow up watching the Olympics with my family. Then in late summer of 1972, I tuned in to the summer games being held in Munich.. I had just finished working full time during what would have been my freshman year in college, and as a result, I began my college career a year later…arriving on campus on August 26, 1972… the day the Munich summer games opened. Quite a few of my dorm mates watched the games on the TV in the dorm lobby, and it was there that I was introduced to the excitement of the Olympic experience. Unfortunately, that introduction was marred by tragedy when Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage on September 5, all of whom eventually lost their lives. I still marvel at how the Olympic spirit rose above that tragedy, and others since then, and continues to demonstrate how hard work and dedication, in the context of good sportsmanship, can produce excellence in athletic achievement.
By now most of you are aware that this year’s games were also marred by tragedy. In a training run the day prior to competition, 21 year old Georgian luge competitor, Nodar Kumaritashvili, lost control on an uncharacteristically fast luge track, smashing into a support post, losing his life. Very different circumstances than what occurred back in 1972, but no less tragic for a family, a team of athletes, and the entire Olympic community.
Between those two Olympiads, I’ve enjoyed being to witness the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” (as we were reminded every Saturday for years by Jim McKay on ABC’s Wide World of Sports)! Who can forget the 1980 victory of the USA Men’s Ice Hockey team over the Russians at the Lake Placid winter games? And what about Mary Lou Retton’s vault at the summer games in Los Angeles in 1984? Remember Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals back in Munich? (He just turned 60 the other day, by the way!) And then Michael Phelps topping that record with eight golds at the 2008 games in Beijing. And I know most guys wouldn’t admit to this, but I also happen to enjoy the ice skating competition during the winter games. Now there’s a sport that has had its share of controversy. Yet if you watch, how could you forget the “Battle of the Brians” (Boitano and Orser) at the Calgary winter games in 1988? Oh, how Canada wanted that gold…yet it eventually went to Boitano from the USA.
Since watching in the dorm back in 1972, I have watched 20 telecast Olympiads. I eagerly anticipate it each time, even changing my cell phone ring-tone to the Olympic Theme. Because, what would the Olympic experience be without that terrific music? I know that the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games will have added to the list of exciting Olympic moments I’ll have to reminisce about for many years to come.
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