I have always been a huge Olympics nerd. My earliest Olympic memories are of being sick and watching gymnastics in my parents’ bed. It was always a treat to get to hang out in mom and dad’s bed all day when we were sick because there was a TV in their room. This particular memory is from very early in my life, because my parents changed the bedrooms around when I was about 7 or 8 and this memory takes place in the earlier bedroom. For all I know, it wasn’t even the Olympics, just some gymnastics competition that was on TV.
Like most girls in the 80’s, I loved gymnastics and took lessons at one of the elite gyms, which happened to be in the next town over. I never got out of the beginner class, but it was cool seeing the gym I went to on the “Up Close and Personal” segments when we watched the Olympics. I loved my leotards and jumping on the trampoline (I couldn’t do a flip) and even the weight-training machines (I couldn’t lift even the lowest weight over my head).
As time went on, the Olympics became a family experience that I always enjoyed. We watched together, made snarky comments, and rooted for Team USA. Watching the Winter Olympics with friends on a ski vacation is still a touchstone for family jokes, and when we stayed at a lodge in Killington where there was only one TV, we watched the Olympics in a room full of skiers, which is a real bonding experience.
When the Olympics roll around, I tend to get a bit obsessed (you’re shocked, I know). Ironically, I always put on weight during the games, because I sit around watching TV all day and then stay up way too late watching the telecast, so I eat more sugar than usual to keep my energy up. I carefully plan my viewing schedule so that I’ll be able to stay awake for the events I most want to see. I even made KPD change the hotel for our honeymoon to one that had a TV so that I wouldn’t miss the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Sometimes I’ll ask someone if they’re watching the Olympics, and they will reply, “No, I don’t enjoy sports.” This comment always brings me up short, because I almost never watch sports other than the Olympics, unless my Kid is competing. During the games, though, I can tell you who the stars of the various water polo teams are.
I love everything about the Olympics. I love the competition. I love the idea of all the nations of the world coming together in peace. I love the individual stories of triumph and the beauty of watching people who have trained their whole lives do what they do best at the best of their ability. I love the variety of body types needed to do the different sports. I love the idea that the athletes are selected on merit alone, and anybody can win.
This year, though, I’m a bit conflicted. Stories of human rights abuses in Rio are alarming. The Olympic Peace isn’t a thing anymore, sadly. We learn more and more about the money poured in to certain athletes and the advantages that the wealthy (or wealthy countries) have over the poor. The Russians have been banned for cheating, which isn’t a conversation I relish having with the Kid. Russian pride was always a nice part of watching with her, but not this year. And between zika and pollution, there are real reasons that top athletes might not show up.
I guess all of this is to say that if you’re primarily following me because you love intricate analyses of Glee, there’s going to be a change coming up. But we’ll see. It might be that given the problems anticipated at this year’s games, it’s too much reality for me, in which case it’s nice to know there’s a place I can go where every problem is solved with a song.