It’s better late than never when it comes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, as millions of people throughout the world tune in to see the latest results.
There’s nothing quite like the Olympics. They have a history and a comprehensiveness that sets them apart from any other sports event.
At least when you consider worldwide popularity, they have a fan base greater than the Super Bowl, the World Series or World Cup Soccer.
I remember watching the Montreal Olympics from 1976, the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games and the 1984 events in Sarajevo and Los Angeles. Almost all kids dreamed of winning a medal. We thought long and hard about which sports might be attainable.
I always felt sorry for the fourth place finishers. They worked so hard and came so close. It’s only as I got older and became an adult fan that I realized how much it’s an honor just to qualify for the Olympics and to represent your country.
The Olympics recognize all kinds of athletes. They include the widely popular team sports like soccer, basketball, baseball and hockey. They also feature swimming, track and field and the many other individual sports that are popular all throughout the globe.
That variety enables the Olympics to reflect some of the most important qualities of sports. The three that stand out most in my mind are the value of fitness, the importance of lifelong participation, and the need for sportsmanship.
The fitness aspect comes across in the way many Olympic sports aren’t likely to cause injuries. They promote good health.
If someone takes up an Olympic sport, they get valuable health benefits even if they never enter competition. It gives the body what it needs. Calories are burned off in ways that help to prevent obesity. It strengthens muscles, joints and bones.
The value of lifetime participation, getting the fitness benefits at any age, is something that’s all too often ignored in modern society. Sports with the biggest fan bases tend to be those best suited to young athletes.
Thirty is old in many professional sports. It’s great in the Olympics to see events such as equestrian, yachting, shooting and canoeing. They’re pastimes that can be enjoyed for fun throughout life. People can even compete when they aren’t exactly young anymore.
Sportsmanship is another way the Olympics show a positive spirit. It’s not unusual to see athletes congratulate each other. They often demonstrate extra sportsmanship as part of the medal ceremonies.
It’s good to see all of that in an age when many of the most followed sports frequently thrive on hype. They tend to have excessive celebrating, along with “rabid” fan cheering sections complete with face paint.
The Olympics, by contrast, include a higher degree of respect both for opponents and for the whole process of a worldwide competition. Athletes know that they represent their countries. They want to be outstanding in terms of their sportsmanship.
In many ways everyone wins at the Olympics. They’re filled with great personal stories of someone surprisingly winning a medal, or maybe just having a personal best in their event.
I sometimes think it would be nice to have the Olympics every year, but then they wouldn’t be as remarkable. They only come along every four years. When they happen, they take center stage.
I do wish we had a sports channel or at least more sports shows that focused on the lesser seen individual sports. I’d make it a point to tune into it at least occasionally.
As a kid the Olympics motivated me to do my best in high school golf and other extra-curricular activities. Now it’s motivated me to get my bike tires pumped up. I’m also planning to relearn the basics of canoeing with a class in the fall.
Health and fitness is for everyone. We all benefit from not only watching athletes compete, but also challenging ourselves to stay in shape.
— Jim Muchlinski is a long-time reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent