This summer, the country will once again come together to cheer to victory the American Olympians who will be competing in London, England, the city hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics.
For some Americans, however, the voracity they once had for these international games may have morphed into something more akin to lukewarm curiosity.
Before technology became such a driving force in society, the Olympics were undoubtedly huge. It was a time for the whole country to come together and have one common goal: to watch America win. In this day and age, though, people can watch sports year-round, whenever they please, thanks to ESPN and other TV channels. It wasn’t always so easy.
The question, then, becomes to what degree is that ability to watch sports almost 24/7 corroding interest in the Olympics, an event that used compel people to huddle around the TV and watch the games as a family?
“I usually just watch the Olympics on my television in my room. It isn’t a ‘family thing’ in my family,” said sophomore Jake McCarty. “We don’t really make that big of a deal about the competition. It’s fun to watch but, I won’t just sit down and watch every event.”
Some people, however, can recall a day when the Olympics meant much more. Charlie Greene, Fairmont High School ISS teacher, remembers what it was like when he was younger and the Olympics came on. “The Olympics were a huge deal in my house and throughout the neighborhood,” said Greene. “The entire country came together and supported the athletes competing.”
He speaks from personal experience as well: Greene and his wife actually participated in the Olympic trials. “My wife and I were national caliber track athletes; both of us narrowly missed qualifying for the 1984 Olympics.”
Even though the Olympics has lost its splendor in the eyes of many, Greene still enjoys the Games. “Despite the commercialism and allegations of performance-enhancing drug abuse, I still love watching them. The Olympics will always be special; they will always be an important part of my life.”
Greene points out that the proliferation of professional sports has also undoubtedly played a role in diminishing the glory of the Olympics. “The Olympics used to be the only place for athletes to compete with the best in their sport. The Olympics represented something athletes could set their sights upon, something to aspire to; only the best were there,” said Greene. “Now, professional sports are a bigger deal, and Americans can watch these athletes compete often.”
Some, however, still believe the Olympics are a way to connect the world. Government teacher Dave Fisher thinks the Olympics can be used to keep peace. “Everyone comes together and watches the same thing. I find it really special and watch them every year they are on,” said Fisher. “I feel like a lot has changed about the Olympics, though, since our world is constantly changing.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years, however, is the fact that young athletes view Olympians as role models. Sophomore Kristian Berning aspires to be like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. “I have been watching Michael since he first went to the Olympics,” said Berning. “I want to be as good as him someday.”
Berning attended the Junior Olympic training camp in 2010. He said it was so cool to be in the arena where so many famous athletes have trained. “I felt really special and important,” said Berning. In fact, Berning even met Phelps at a Panera during his time at the Olympic Training Center.
In the end, then, although perhaps some of the magic of the Olympics has faded, it certainly isn’t all gone. These Olympians will always be the nation’s heros, as Phelps is with Berning. “That was definitely the highlight of my life being there with Phelps at Panera,” said Berning. “Nothing will top meeting my idol, this great Olympian.”