Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic love

I love the Olympics. I don't follow regular team sports and am not athletic myself, but every four years, I become glued to the TV watching people run, jump, and swim to their bodies maximum potential. (And boy, oh boy, those are some bodies.)

I must admit I'm more of a summer than winter Olympics girl. The summer Olympics just seem less elitist. More countries send delegations, and although I don't want to bother looking it up, I get the feeling that more countries are represented in the final medal count too. Sure there are like 4 countries that seem to dominate, but there is always one event, be it archery or weightlifting or long-distance running, when one person from a country with a small, practically non-existent national sports program can make history.

Of course, you wouldn't know it from watching TV coverage here in the US. Sports where the US doesn't traditionally dominate don't seem to get a lot, or any, airtime. Look, I'm all about national pride, but the Olympics offer A TON of fascinating human interest stories, and a lot of the stars of those stories don't speak English. I wish we'd get to see more of them.  I want to know more about the guy from Guatemala who won a silver medal in the 20k race walk, or the woman from Armenia who won a bronze medal in weightlifting. I'm sure there are some heartwarming tears to be shed...but so far, I haven't had to mop up any, which is a rarity for me.

My favorite sport in the Olympics has always been gymnastics. I remember being glued to the TV as a wee little tot watching Nadia Comaneci and her little ponytail sailing through the air. That was way back when Russia was still the U.S.S.R. and a tiny little girl from a little country like Romania could become an international star, earn a perfect 10, and build Olympic programs.

Poor dusty Misha/Sasha. He's 32!!
The first Olympic games I remember were the games in 1980. Some Russian friends of my father's actually gave me some Olympic swag, including a teddy bear of the mascot for those games, Misha. Some of you reading this may not know how rare my Olympic swag was...especially since the US boycotted the Moscow games. As young as I was, I knew this stuff was special. The teddy bear in particular I fell in love with. I promptly renamed him Sasha....I think because I forgot his official name and Sasha just sounded Russian. I have since lost the pins and t-shirt and whatever else they gave me, but Sasha has been my faithful companion for over 30 years. I slept with him for years: his hair is matted from absorbing tears, and his stuffing is full of my secret hopes and dreams.  He went to college with me (sitting on my lap on the plane) and I had to make sure to give him a hug after watching every single Toy Story movie. His Olympic belt is all twisted, and the rings are a little rusty...but he's still in pretty good shape, and we still watch the Olympics together. I think he was secretly rooting for that scarily icy Russian gymnast to win the gold, but that's probably just because he loves glitter. Honestly, given all the wear and tear he's had to bear, I think he's holding up better than a lot of the elite athletes that competed in the games he was manufactured for.

I will continue to spend the next week or so watching what I can of the Olympics, suplementing what I can't watch on TV online, and showing my support of the games by painting my nails gold, silver and bronze. (I'm all about the winner's bling!)  I think I'll give ole' Sasha a little cleaning while I'm at it...after all, he's my Olympic prize.

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