Monday, March 1, 2010

Farewell Vancouver Olympics

The  Olympics are over. The winter Olympics are over and I'm actually kind of sad.  I miss it, and I don't even like winter sports.   But as always the Olympics are about more than the competition, they are about national pride and the global community coming together. 
One thing I've been thinking about is why these Olympics are doing so much better than in 06, in terms of viewers?   I think it has something to do with the recession.   Not the people are saving money,  staying home and watching TV reasons either.  No I think it  has more to do with our national psyche.  Let me explain,

When I was young there was nothing as important as the Olympics, primarily the Summer Olympics as it was a showdown between the USA and the USSR.  It was a civilized sporting event intent on showing global superiority. In 1980 and 84 these tensions led to boycotts of the Olympic games, but in 1988 every victory validated the democratic system over the oppressive communist state, the investment of every American was real. As a kid I'd stay up late and watch hoping in our country, in our best, in our country and in our way of life. 

Since these tension and drama filled competitions the games have lost some luster, there isn't nearly as much on the line, the sports aren't all that mainstream and national pride isn't as important since we don't have as many competitors on the global stage.  Or at least we didn't in 2006.  

Now, in 2010, we have a little bit more of a need to see the US do well. In the middle of this recession we are reeling as a nation, unsure about our future.  We know things are bad and nations like China and India are gaining on us in prosperity and production.  We realize that the system we were once champions and advocates of has let us down and we are now wondering, "Is the USA still the land of dreams?"  I think this question is one reason we tuned in, in such larger numbers.  Even though we could find results on the internet before the events aired, we waited.  We watched, we hoped, we invested.  There were even people who were comparing the Hockey Final to the 1980 Hockey Final when the college kids from the USA beat the best team in the world from Russia.  That event not only had way more political drama, (Canada isn't quite the evil empire that Russia was, eh?) it also featured a much greater disparity in the talent level of the teams.  But here is the key.  America loves an underdog story and in both situations America was the underdog, and so we cheered, we tuned in we hoped in the promise of America.  Basically that promise is if you commit to something you can accomplish anything.  No matter where you come from you can get ahead.
Sadly, that story has come into doubt here in the US.  People see the way the deck is stacked in favor of the rich, people are noticing that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and wonder if America will ever be the same, if the promise really exists.  People want to hope and they want real change.  But they don't want to change.  We keep wanting things to get easier, to be handed to us, and we forget that what made America great was our Protestant work ethic.  The fact that we as Christians work not for a paycheck (primarily) instead we work to the best of our ability to please God who has given us gifts and abilities to benefit others and his kingdom.  So let's continue to hope in America, to watch the Olympics, (in 2012) to believe in  the promise of America, but also remember that that promise only works if Christ is working in us.  If his goodness is permeating how we live and act and think.  Let's  keep Christ and not ourselves as central and America will once again be the nation that stood up and shown the light as a city on the hill.

It seems like so long ago that a dark cloud hung over these Olympics as the life of a young Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was taken due to neglecting on an insanely fast course that had people complaining before the tragedy about it's safety.  But just as life often teaches us from even the darkest times, light and hope break through.  There are numerous stories of individuals within and from outside of the luging community joining together to support the family and memory of Nodar.

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