There has been a lot of media about the Olympic torch recently. Now the torch is in California where it sounds like the controversy followed it across the pond with threats of protests and more snuffings. I understand the reasoning and the controversy behind the symbolic snuffing of the torch and I definitely do not want to negate that by writing this post. I agree that the location is controversial based on recent news of the situation in Tibet.
However, I love the Olympics. In particular the Summer games but really both Winter and Summer just light a fire in me. I will watch for hours on end and never tire of the life stories and annoying commentators. I will watch the opening and closing ceremonies like some people watch the Super Bowl. Simply put, I love the whole experience!
When I was about 10 years old, I lived in San Jose CA. It was 1984 and the Olympics were held in Los Angeles that year. One of my most favorite memories of that year was climbing into my dad's Honda Civic wagon on a sunny cool early Northern CA morning (oh yeah and it was a brown Civic wagon too - we were way cool in 1984, kay?!) He was wearing his suit for work and I was wearing jeans, a t shirt and my brown & orange cowboy boots. My dad was taking me to horse camp at Buck Norred Ranch in the Santa Teresa foothills. We drove from our house off of Pearl Avenue up the s curves past Oakridge Mall where we parked the car and joined throngs of other people standing by the road. I craned my neck when we found a spot and watch the person run past holding the torch.
I was in love with the Olympics back then. I dreamed of being in them one day either for swimming or horse back riding! I had a opportunity that summer to attend a semi final Olympic soccer match held at Stanford University. During my years of swimming I had the chance to stand next to & get autographs from (BUT thankfully never swam against) Janet Evans, Pablo Morales (who is still the best swimmer ever in my opinion!), Carrie Steinseifer, and Matt Biondi. That was my idea of celebrity when I was a kid! I usually included my Olympic dreams in essays for grade school which I still have and am slightly embarrassed by!
Later in high school & college I wrote about the politics of the Olympics in my history classes. As a kid, I had a coach named Jonty Skinner who held the record internationally for years in the 100 Freestyle. He was from South Africa and was not allowed to compete despite the fact that he broke the record just mere weeks after the Olympics he was banned from. I always thought of him and how that must have affected his life. How he still loved swimming despite that fact & made a mighty career out of coaching other people to be Olympic champions. That because of the ground he was born on made him a target, kept from having the experience of having someone hang a gold medal heavily around his neck and feel pride in his young strength and ability.
I will never forget those experiences and I think the thrill I feel now for the Olympics is a throwback to being 10 on a sunny weekday morning with my dad watching someone run by holding that torch blissfully unaware of what that torch meant politically to people around the world at various times throughout history.
For me, no matter what the politics or the allegations of doping or whatever issues it will be every few years, there is always some story, some amazing race or small country that will take home the gold that never has before that will warm my heart.