Being that it’s an even year on the calendar, the world gathers together in a spirit of camaraderie and competition in the Olympic Games. In the year 2014, it is the winter athletes who have the chance to compete for gold medals and the honor of representing their countries. The opening ceremonies of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games are today in Sochi, Russia.
The Olympics have always had a special place in my family’s home. My father loves to watch the games, and he instilled that same love in me. It is inspiring to see athletes lay everything they have on the line to represent flag and country.
This love was augmented when the 19th Winter Olympic Games was held right in my backyard in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas. I was in sixth grade, and we had several drawings at my elementary school to get tickets to go to events at the games. I won the chance to go to the opening ceremonies at the Paralympic Games at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
These men and women are exciting to watch. They train for years and years, most of them for their whole lives up to that point, to become the best. Even in defeat, the athletes are gracious and humble.
I would be the first to give my opinion that the Winter Games just don’t feel as exciting as the Summer Olympics. There is great tradition in the Summer Games, which date back to ancient Greece.
But the games are still exciting and bring the same spirit of competition and unity that exist in the summer games. My parents can still remember watching the “Miracle on Ice,” when the United States Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the semifinals and went on to win gold at Lake Placid.
The movie “Miracle”, which is my only experience with this story, captures the feat beautifully. I cannot forget the line “who do you play for?” Team captain Mike Eruzione finally gives the correct answer: “I play for the United States of America.”
One of the draws to the Winter Olympic Games, at least to me, is the risk involved. Ice and snow are slippery and unpredictable, which adds to the excitement. You don’t hear a lot of talk about potential injury during the Summer Games. Races in the Winter Olympics can include sliding off of a mountain at high speeds or falling off of a sled going down a slick, icy track.
This year, there are 12 new events that add even more depth to the winter experience. Notable events include the ski halfpipe, which uses the exact same run as the snowboard halfpipe. This year, women will also compete in the ski jump, which, to me, is one of the most exciting events in the Winter Games. Other events include the ski and snowboard slopestyle and team events such as the luge relay and team figure skating.
Some of the favorites are still here, such as downhill skiing, figure skating, hockey, the skeleton, speed skating and the bobsled. And yes, Jamaica has a bobsled team this year, after a 12-year hiatus, for all of us “Cool Runnings” fans.
So sit back and enjoy the festivities. Many events will be broadcast on NBC and affiliate networks. Whether you are a fan of a particular sport or not, the spirit of national pride and competition is awe-inspiring and is a reminder that, at least once every two years, the world can get together and get along. Let’s watch them go for the gold.