Friday, May 23, 2008

Summer Olympics (Root, Root, Root for the Home Team)

Now that Memorial Day--the unofficial kickoff to summer--is almost here, I thought I'd chat about the summer olympics which are being held in Beijing this year and are just around the corner. Coverage is set to begin with the opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 airing on NBC, and all their affiliated channels including MSNBC, CNBC, and USA, and will end with the closing ceremony on August 24, 2008.

Some will moan and groan about the interruption to typical summer TV fare, but personally I'm looking forward to the Olympics and love what they stand for. It's an ideal, which though no longer pure thanks to doping scandals-such as with Marion Jones, is still praise-worthy. The idea of athletes from around the globe coming together in peace (a feat unto itself in today's world) to compete in sports, not for prize money, but for the honor of representing their country and the chance at being the best in their field. Young men and women who train for years for that one chance at glory, with all their hopes and dreams riding on a few precious minutes, sometimes seconds.

As for the TV coverage, the opening ceremony is always must-see TV in my house, and I await it with the same eager anticipation most people reserve for Christmas morning--or I reserve for the Oscars--and the excitement builds as the parade of nations draws near. I love to hear the roar of the crowd as the athletes come in proudly carrying their country's flag, and the anticipation until the U.S. flag enters the stadium, followed by a contingent of mostly young and eager faces all dressed in matching outfits, like school kids in uniform out on an exciting class trip. Once the actual competition starts, the one sport I try to follow (schedule permitting) during the summer olympics is women's gymnastics. U.S. women's gymnastics has been the source of some of my favorite olympic moments in the past, including Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10 on the vault and floor exercise in the 1984 Olympics, and Kerri Strug landing her last vault on one foot in order to earn a high enough score to qualify the U.S. for the gold in the team competition. I'm hoping they can create a couple more memorable moments during these olympics.

Another part of the coverage which I totally eat up are those sappy background stories they do on athletes and their families, with stirring background music and soft lighting, so that every frame evokes just enough emotion to tug on your heartstrings. Or better yet, when they cover the underdogs--the long shots hoping for a Cinderella story--which leave you cheering for them with the same excitement as for a family member, and ultimately (majority of the time) leave you heartbroken for their loss. The medal ceremonies are pretty special too, whether its seeing a young athlete's face as they get their medal and their realization that their dream came true, or when one of our athletes wins--seeing our flag hanging from the rafters or waving in the wind and hearing our anthem played for all to hear. There is an undeniable feeling of pride, as if the accomplishment is ours collectively.

So get out your U.S. flag (or your country's, if not from the U.S.), fluff up your pom-poms, freshen up on your anthem and get ready to cheer for the home team.