The 2008 Olympic games are over now, consigned to history--unforgettable history. We are Olympics junkies and always have been. We watch team handball and table tennis and gymnastics and soccer and swimming (Can you believe Michael Phelps, the dynamo who shrugged and said, "I don't know, I just like swimming fast.") and boxing and diving (although C did finally say one night, "Obviously, there are people who watch prime time Olympics coverage who are more into diving than I am.") We watch the qualifying events and the medal competitions. We watch the medal ceremonies as the national anthems play. On our trip, we drove hard every day and ate in our hotel rooms so we could watch every minute possible.
We fell in love during the 1984 summer games and have been watching the Olympics faithfully ever since. If your kids are the same ages as our kids, chances are you've been to one of our Olympic parties, usually consisting of watching the opening ceremonies with family-style events during the commercials--Q-tips for javelin throw, cotton balls for shot put, wrestling with the daddies in the middle of the den floor. Then the adults would finish watching the festivities on television while the kids conked out on the sofa, after many New Years' Eve-style protestations that they could stay awake until the end.
This year's games were maybe the best I can remember. The opening ceremonies never looked so good, a combination of the insane amount of money the Chinese spent and the fact that we've never watched them on humongous, flat-screen TVs in high def before. To be fair, the Chinese did a terrific job--so innovative and bold. We found ourselves amazed that they thought of such creative ideas and then even more impressed that they were able to execute them. I was miffed that some of it was CG (and even more frustrated that NBC didn't tell us) and I thought the inclusion of Chinese soldiers was chilling (as the narrator intoned, "The Chinese military who will insure the future of China's children . . . ")--Yikes.
And let's just get the negative stuff out of the way: The IOC assured us repeatedly that China had promised to pay attention to human rights issues and then completely dropped the ball. Supposed "terrorists" (can you say, "dissidents"?) were publicly executed before the games. China did keep its promise to allow designated areas for protesters--areas which remained empty because everyone who submitted a request to protest was arrested (an old Mao-era tactic). I had sincerely hoped that the IOC would make sure that the promises made were promises kept but I was wrong--apparently the ends really do justify the means.
But the Olympics are, above all, a terrific symbol of hope. We saw Georgian and Russian athletes competing fairly and then embracing. We saw the American-born daughter of Russian gymnasts compete against her best friend, who was trained by a Chinese coach from Beijing. We saw small, insignificant nations win their first medals ever. And we saw, over and over, the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" and win or lose, we admired the focus and the dedication of the world's best athletes. As Raffi sings in the McDonald's commercial, "The more we get together, the happier we'll be."