The Olympics are an incredible phenomenon. Every two years, the entire world sets its gaze on one lucky host country as it showcases the best of the best. Most of us have never heard of these athletes before, but as we learn their stories and cheer for their performances, they become instant superstars, legends on a global stage. We are amazed by physical prowess and mental toughness, astounded to see such a variety of people and cultures brought together in pursuit of one thing – Olympic gold.
But in the midst of all of this, there’s another aspect to Olympic phenomenon that I find fascinating. Winning and losing has become a sore subject for many Americans – so we isolate from it, grading papers with purple ink instead of red and making sure everybody gets a trophy, no matter what.
But during the Olympics, if you’re not fast enough, bold enough, good enough, you don’t win a medal. But we love it. It’s what gives the games such drama and zest; what leaves us pulling for the red, white and blue until the last second. If the Olympics teach us anything, it’s that victory only comes through perseverance and hard work – and that it never hurts to have a little help from some flag-waving friends.
Which brings me to my next tangent – why can we chant “USA!” at the top of our lungs during the Olympics but at no other time? Why is it OK to have a groundswell of patriotism about these games, but unacceptable to cite patriotism and heritage when we’re back at home, looking at country-changing policy issues?
The US has done many incredible things this Olympics, and it’s a beautiful thing to have a country that we’re proud of, both in the heady glamour of competition and the definitely unromantic tough times. As Thomas Paine said: “Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our great title is Americans…”