why I love the Olympics

Every time the Olympics rolls around, we hear a near-constant stream of complaints from certain elements of the public.

"They cost too much"

"The athletes are all on drugs"

"It's too commercial"

"It's rigged"

"Our athletes don't win as many medals as China, ergo we suck"

"The sports are all irrelevant"

whatever. You know you've heard them. 

but I LOVE the Olympics.  I love seeing the sheer number of sports that we never see otherwise.  I love knowing that there are people out there training, for years at a time, to win a medal in a sport that most of the world doesn't know exists.  Pentathlon, anyone? 

Secondly, I love Olympians.  I love the stories that come out: like the story of Sarah Attar, one of Saudi Arabia's first female Olympians.  At first, I couldn't understand why any woman would want to compete for a country that has no desire for females to show any sort of independence, but when I read that story I started to understand - that she could inspire girls from her home country that they too could do anything they want.  Despite her last-place finish, she got a standing ovation as she crossed the finish line. 

I cried watching Joannie Rochette skate in the Olympics just 2 days after her mother died.  I felt the support of all of Canada running through her veins as she skated that day.

And to anyone who says that Olympians are all elitist, snobby, or deserving of scorn, I give you Clara Hughes and Carol Huynh.  Clara is possibly my favorite person in the entire world.  I see her positivity, hard work ethic, kindness, and sportsmanship as a huge inspiration.  I don't just want to be like her, I want to be her. Carol is a small-town Olympian who was practically raised by the community of Hazelton.  In a town with so much going against it, so much unemployment, so much addiction, so much poverty, citizens found it in themselves to donate money to help Carol get to the wrestling competitions that helped her to become the competitor she is today.  And Carol inspires the kids in the community to recognize that even they can reach their goals. 

Elite athletes, for the most part, are amazing people.  They have incredible drive, incredible motivation. Talent, in any field, will only get you so far.  The rest is just hard work. It's a lesson that all of us can take home with us.  Likewise, most elite athletes recognize that winning isn't everything.  Sportsmanship, gratitude, camaraderie are also important aspects of sport. Work hard, make lofty goals, respect your peers, give back to the community - all Olympic values, and all lessons that we can learn from these athletes.

Good luck at the Olympics athletes - even if you don't "win", you're a winner in my eyes!