I felt a mixture of emotions leading up to these Olympics. Given the human rights record in China, and particularly given the ongoing conflict in Darfur and the continued tensions over Tibet, I wasn't sure what to think. I even participated in the torch protest in San Francisco when the torch stopped here briefly on its only American visit (ended up not ever seeing the torch as the organizers diverted the course at the last minute). After considering boycotting any viewing of the Olympics this year, my husband and I eventually decided that we still wanted to support the athletes, and we wanted to learn more about China since we live in a neighborhood with many Chinese neighbors. Just the first number of that spectacular opening ceremony made me realize how much I need to learn about this country with a culture so ancient mine looks infantile in comparison.
It turns out that I'm a complete sucker for Olympic stories--you know, the classic stories the networks produce to get us primed to watch an event. They seem to all start with a difficult childhood, seemingly impossible odds, a dream that wouldn't die, and then, hopefully, glory. I know they're formulaic, but I still love 'em. My current favorite contender, now that I know his story, is Raj Bhavsar, a gymnast who served as an alternate in 2004 and just barely got on the team this year after a favorite was injured. Between the last Olympics, he has gone philosophical and now serves as a sort of spiritual core for the U.S. Men's Gymnastics team.
I just wanted to open us this thread to you all. What Olympic stories have you been following? What do you think the Olympics says about us as a nation? As a world? What keeps you listening to Bob Costas until well past midnight?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/862