The Importance of the Olympics

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By Nate Schapmann

What event happens every four years, ignites feelings of patriotism, and brings the world’s premiere athletes to the forefront of international competition?  Yes, if you couldn’t tell from the headline, the Summer Olympics.

National pride has been abundant for not only the United States, but every nation competing in this year’s games, whether you have 541 like the host nation of Great Britain, or simply 2 to 3 like many third-world African countries or miniscule island nations, every athlete should feel honored to be competing for their home in the most prestigious of all sporting events in human history.

While Olympic championship matches are certainly popular, they don’t garner the same viewership as, say, the Super Bowl or the World Cup final, but what makes the games the most exciting two weeks in sports isn’t simple T.V. ratings.  Instead, it’s the fact that these sports that normally get little to no coverage (Beach Volleyball, Swimming, Water Polo, Handball, the list goes on) and the athletes that compete in them, are suddenly thrust on to the largest international stage possible.

I for one take the olympics as an opportunity to watch sports that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to watch.  I mean, I haven’t seen a single olympic basketball game yet.  This isn’t because I don’t enjoy watching the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul wipe the court with their competition (*cough* USA 156 – Nigeria 73 *cough*), but because I have a readily available stream of basketball coverage during the eight-month-long season, yet when else can I see gymnastics or track get primetime coverage?  Maybe once a year if I’m lucky.

Despite this enormous pressure, the USA athletes have faired extremely well, leading the medal count over China and blowing every other country out of the water.  When I think back to the 2008 Summer olympics in Beijing, I remember it being the Michael Phelps show.  Sure, there were a few side stories like Usain Bolt of Jamaica dominating the track, or American beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings winning gold, but, for the most part, Phelps’ eight gold medals outshone the games themselves in the media’s eyes.  Now, in London, the distribution of fame’s exemplary, especially with the women’s gymnastic team, new stars in the pool like Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin, and our women’s soccer team.

For me, by far the most amazing thing about these Olympics has been seeing people our age, and sometimes even younger, competing and winning gold medals for the States.  To stand triumphant on the podium, the national anthem blazing in the background, and seeing the stars and stripes raised slightly above others thanks to you, would be the most amazing feeling of my life. I’d take a gold medal over a championship ring any day of the week.

No matter your beliefs, your political affiliation, your orientation, we’re all Americans here, so please, show support for our country.