Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why you should consider watching the Sochi Olympics

Dear Sochi (justified) Boycotter,

I will watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  I will do so happily, but not without personal struggle

I will rarely watch live and prefer to PVR and fast forward through the commercials because the sponsors pay for their brief airtime with me.  I will watch not because of national pride but because I want to celebrate my closest neighbours participating.  I will watch not because I agree with the practices of the host nation; in this case I deplore the practices of this particular host.

I will watch because the athletes participating did not choose these particular Olympic games to participate in.  They were chosen.  Though Men's Hockey and a few specific athletes in other sports do make a lot of money, the vast majority of these elite athletes barely scrape by, relying on family, friends, and a side job.  Their chosen profession is not celebrated properly except for 2 weeks every 4 years.

I watch the Olympics because I can sympathize with the story of the unsung elite athlete.  The resolve it takes to completely dedicate your mind and body to seeing how far the human body and spirit can be pushed takes a self-consuming focus, dedication, and belief that our limits are tested but not finite.  These athletes are struggling with competing in these particular Olympics.  Does the pursuit of redefining physical limit outweigh everything else.  Everything else these athletes have given up suggests that to them it does.  To them it must.  You can't give your life to something and not follow through, no matter what.  

If you decide not to watch, I can completely understand.  

But consider taking a look your chosen path/passion/profession.  At the thing you've dedicated every available moment, every available cell of your body to pursuing.  Remember it has come with some or many sacrifices.  For the unsung athlete, in the majority of cases, the sacrifice is that you put family on hold, you put a financially gainful career on hold, you put relationships on hold.  Your best friend is your sweat, pain, and belief.  Pretend you were the best artist, the best banker, the best electrician, the best consultant, the best carpenter, the best doctor, etc.  Imagine being devalued because people didn’t like the country you practiced your passion in.  They didn’t like who sponsored your profession.  They decided that your ability didn’t matter because you were given privilege to practice what you do.  

Some countries with a strong Olympic record reward successful Olympic performance.  Many with that same record do not.  I say that only to reinforce that they are playing on a level field.  They see each other as fellow competitors.  They are not competing for your favour, their family’s favour, their friend’s favour, or their country’s favour.  That favour is simply motivation and support for what their ultimate goal is:  the performance that matches their best potential.  For every athlete who achieves it, their sacrifice will be worth it.  If it happens that it is the current recorded best on the entire Planet Earth, even just on that day?…    …well…   imagine for a second, for a split second,  the personal pride you would feel.  The pride that goes with living a humble life in order to pursue something that seems wildly ambitious, naive, and fantastic.

My schooling involved deep study of the Olympic movement.  I would like to bring an accessible perspective of what it means to compete.

Citius, Altius, Fortius is not a motto meant for the IOC, not sponsors, not the host nation.  It is a motto for a person who wants to physically manifest it.  To that kind of person it always has, and it always will, been a drive and a dream.

Consider tuning in.

With the warmest regards,