Bringing The World Together

Every couple of years the athletes of the world come together to compete. This year is it is the Winter Olympics. I especially enjoy watching the winter games.

The last week I have been up early to watch curling. I fell in love with the sport a few years ago. I cannot tell you why I enjoy it, but I do. It is nothing short of amazing that they can land those “rocks,” 42 pounds of granite, just where they want them. I found the curling event on early in the morning so I was up in time to watch the mixed doubles matches. They are different than the plain matches so I was thankful the commentator filled us in as we went along.

I think what I like best about the Olympics is that all of the contests are new and fresh. Contrary to what people think not all of the contestants are young. Many of them have perfected their craft for years. One in particular was attending his fourth Olympics. All I can imagine is how much the sport has changed in the years that he has been participating.

Then, there are the newbies. One young man captured the first gold medal for the U.S. early on in the competition. He threw down a spectacular run on his snowboard. He has become an instant celebrity.

Since I am retired I can watch all of the contests that I care to see. Of course, I still have things about my home that need to be done. I also have to appear for my volunteer duties. I do feel a little guilty about the hours that I am logging while I watch, but it will be another four years until I can see some of these events again.

I especially enjoy the stories that surface about the athletes. Each of them has a story. Every one of them has given up something to practice for years. Their dedication is admirable. In some cases, I wonder if the dream is that of the athlete or the athlete’s parent or parents. Many of them have moved their whole families in order to provide a place to train and practice.

I am always impressed by the delegation of friends and family who travel to cheer on the participant. Some of the events not only require dedication they require layers of clothing to keep warm as the venues are out-of-doors.

The hockey games will be different during this contest since players from the NHL will not be participating. I wonder how the contest will be. There will be some college hockey players in the mix.

Today I watched the men’s cross-country ski. It was a long grueling race with the medals all going to Norway. The big story of this event was that the man who won gold fell just moments after the start of the race and had a lot of time to make up.

Another story that emerged was the man from the U.S. who won a medal in the individual luge. That was surely a milestone.

The big story of the XXII Olympics just may be the interaction between North Korea and South Korea. The team represent players from both countries. I saw an interesting story about the women’s hockey team. They were barely introduced to each other when they had to compete. Although they lost by a huge margin, they appeared to be getting along quite well. I believe there is also a language barrier to be overcome.

Just imagine, two groups who have had no interaction in many years. In fact, they consider the others enemies. Now they are participating in these games together.

The proof of how well this works out will only be determined in the future. We certainly can all hope for the best.

An event that was done only once before is the team competition for the skaters. When they began to compete, the nerves showed for many of them. Maybe that is a good thing. They can get past the nerves before the individual competition begins.

If you are choosing not to watch the games you are missing out on some fascinating personal stories. I noticed the graph from last week in the newspaper indicated that most of those who responded said they would not watch the games. The best part is not always the competition, it is the stories that emerge.

Often, they show pictures of the Olympians as children just beginning their sport. It is fun to see how they began.

What remains to happen will only be revealed in the days of competition. I am overjoyed when someone from a little-known country does well. I guess I always root for the underdog.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at