Why We Need the Olympics

by | July 27, 2012 at 8:41 PM | General

Olympic Park, London Nationalism can be dangerous. Nationalism can be divisive. Nationalism can cause war.

This is all undeniably true.

But that kind of nationalism, that divisive force, is completely non-Olympic. The Olympics aren’t cancerous. They aren’t segregating. They’re therapeutic. They remind us not how much we’re different, but how much we’re the same. The Games may split the world up into teams, but they also bring us together to watch. They bring us together to cheer. They bring us together to cry.

That spirit and atmosphere is oozing out of London. Sure, it’s all over the athletes’ faces. But the Games are about so much more than the athletes. The Games are about our humanity. And as you walk the streets, cross the bridges, ride the tube… there are people — ordinary people — spending an arm and a leg to be a part of this. To experience the experience. And it’s on their faces, in their souls, where the Olympic essence resides.

The feeling is palpable. It manifests in pride. Pride that doesn’t require winning gold … or silver … or bronze. Pride that exists solely in rooting for where you came from. Rooting for your country. For yourself.

To the cynic it’s laughable. Hell, to 90 percent of us 99 percent of the time it’s uncannily corny. But for these three weeks, for these 17 days, the excitement is too infectious to ignore. Most of us buy in. Most of us succumb. Completely. Delightedly. Passionately.

We’re all equally susceptible. From the boy in a village in Tuvalu to the grandfather in Notting Hill. A billion of us watched the Opening Ceremonies Friday night. One billion.¬†And the opening ceremony is just an extended Broadway show. Wait until they start actually playing sports.

And you won’t have to wait long. We’ll wake up to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte going head-to-head in the 400m IM, Sue Bird and Maya Moore taking the floor for Team USA and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh hit the beach to defend gold.

Stay tuned. Coverage starts at 5am ET. Set your alarm.