Four years ago I wrote a post sharing my love for the Olympics and the values that many of the Olympic athletes show and share(https://mytutoringspace.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/why-i-love-the-olympics/). How lucky we are, as spectators, to not only be able to watch and cheer but also to be able to learn and teach these ideals to our students. What becomes clear, time and again, is how excellence, or at least the pursuit of excellence, removes barriers and can connect across politics, across nationalities, and unites people even while the notion of competition itself suggests separation and distance among players. How sad then to read some of the tweets and posts that denigrated the players who selected to recognize the limits of their own physical prowess and who bowed out of a competition; be it an American or a Russian,(or a competitor from any other county), who did so out of a desire to stay healthy and have the option of participating again.
What then do the players teach all of us? That true sportsmanship is demonstrated on and off the field, and how “real life” is even more heart warming than all the TV commercials (though these do pull at heart-strings). I wish all the arm-chair critics who comfortably tweeted nasty comments about players, would realize that behind the choices are individuals who, by making it to the Olympics, have already proven tops in their fields, and who deserve encouragement for demonstrating that sometimes, not participating is the correct choice. Canada’s great hockey player, Sidney Crosby, and his determination to take care of himself when it was necessary ( http://proicehockey.about.com/od/nhlnewsscoresstats/a/Sidney-Crosby-Concussion-History.htm )is an excellent example for all young children learning a sport and needing to recognize the importance of pushing oneself, yes, but within limits. Cheers to both Men’s and Women’s hockey teams; thanks for making such hard work look like fun 🙂
Kudos to the female free-style skiers who honoured Sarah Burke, (http://lastwordonsports.com/2014/02/15/canada-honours-late-sarah-burke-on-flag-day/)- and demonstrated these 2014 games exemplify that individuals can and do make a difference and how individuals can change established systems.
For those of us who were kids in the 70s Sochi also represented huge Global changes. After the laughter at the toilets, and the army barrack style residences, let us recognize the enormous change that had to take place before Russia could even appear “welcoming” – – but that is also because of growing up in the 70s when all things “USSR” were simply “foreign”, and shows like “The Man from UNCLE” still popular in reruns on the TV. It was a “spy versus spy” world, not restricted to the last page of a MAD magazine; in 2014, the smiling Matrushka doll that highlights a portion of the downhill ski run is a lovely touch; and though some may see her a “folkloric”, to me, watching from home, she seemed to be pleasantly wishing all the runners well.
As a spectator, I continue to send a global “thank you” to each of the participants for giving the rest of us an opportunity to cheer. For a couple of weeks, we could believe, not only in the supposed superiority of a country based on medals won, but in the true magnificence of the ideal- competition through sport – peace through participation.