As I am sitting in an English Pub in the middle of South Louisiana watching Russia play Brazil in the men’s volleyball final, I think back to all the amazing things I have witnessed during the 30th Summer Olympics. I have seen the U.S. conquer and strive, I’ve seen camaraderie, sportsmanship, and most importantly unity. The unity of nations, athletes, and fans.
In a world where sports fans can be jaded by the world of over paid athletes with egos to match their paychecks, watching the Olympics is a breath of fresh air. These athletes competing don’t get paid big endorsements for what they do and while some athletes like U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas will receive a big payday, most will never see a dime for their hard work and dedication.
Take for example U.S. female weightlifter Sarah Robles, who depends on the help of family and friends to continue with her Olympic dream. According to nbcolympics.com, Robles has been living off a stipend of $400 a month to train and compete. In the article, she says, “I think a lot of people when they hear Olympian or Olympic athlete, they think that you are bringing in the big bucks just because you are an Olympic athlete, that the United States Olympic Committee is giving you tons and tons of money,” she said. “I think getting my story out there will help people look (at) some (other) sports and really learn to appreciate them.”
She hoped her performance would help her gain sponsorship for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
These athletes do it for their love of the sport. They prepare their whole lives for one small moment.
Even though the audience cheers for their home team, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed watching Chad le Clos from South Africa beat Michael Phelps in the 200 meter butterfly, something he was always told no one would achieve. Or watching Mo Farah of Great Britain reach the finish line in first place to win the gold and double leg amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa make it to the finals. Even though Pistorius did not place in the finals, his historical run was inspirational.
While the Olympics, at its heart, is a competition putting country versus country, it also an effort that takes the whole world working together to happen. For instance, many athletes are born in one country, raised in another, and train in another, but will ultimately compete for their home nation. The unity also reflects in the behind the scenes people and events that must happen for the audience to be able to enjoy the events. According to the official London Olympics website, over 200,000 people from all over the world staffed the games with 2,961 of them acting as technical officials.
While there are many other great things to write about this Olympics, like it being the first year that every sport was represented by a woman and that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei were also represented by a woman for the first time, this story would go on for too long. Too much to write about and so little space.