As a child I loved to watch the Olympics, winter or summer. Maybe it was the flags, the big crowds, or the medals, but I always looked forward to them since the first games I really remember, the 1972 games in Munich. Of course the Munich games were the most tragic. The images of the masked Palestinian terrorist and the memory of Jim McKay reporting the deaths of the Israeli athletes, “they’re all gone” are seared into my memory.
I think what appealed to me about those and subsequent Olympics was seeing people push themselves to excellence, to be the best they could be and perhaps the best in the world. I also enjoyed the stories that ABC ran showing the personal stories of the athletes, especially the ones from other countries, how their lives were similar and different to mine. Another attraction was watching sports that were not always shown in the United States, or ones that usually did not penetrate my football centric interests. I still remember being mesmerized by the weightlifting and the stature, strength and speed of the great Vasily Alekseyev from the Soviet Union. Also from The USSR was the unforgettable Olga Korbut and her revolutionary performances in Gymnastics. I was amazed at the splendid athleticism of the track and field athletes. The speed, stamina and form of the track athletes as well as the form, heights, and distances of the field athletes, especially the pole vaulters and long jumpers, amazed me. Finally, from those ’72 Olympics, who could forget the perfect style and beautifully smooth strokes of Mark Spitz’s swimming to 7 gold medals. I remember thinking and saying, “how could anyone swim that fast?” I think I thought the same as I saw Michael Phelps 4 years ago do the impossible and be even more perfect than Spitz.
When I was younger I was focused on country medal counts, wanting for the USA to win more than the USSR and for allies of the US to win over Iron Curtain rivals. Today, I guess I take the Pauline approach in that there are no longer American or Russian, German or Japanese, just athletes and those who appreciate the lifelong dedication and discipline that have led them to the peak of human performance. I want to see athletic excellence and top performances as athletes push the envelope of human possibilities just a bit further. I am always motivated and think, if they can succeed in their endeavor, how can I do more in mine. Such is the spirit of the Olympiad.
I recently ran across an article telling about some long since discarded sports, and thought I would open the floor to debate. Show which of the below would you most like to see returned to its former Olympic event glory, and comment on your favorite Olympic moments and memories.