I’m an international relations major and a sports fanatic, put that together and you get a die-hard Olympics fan. I LOVE THE OLYMPICS. The camaraderie, the competition, the excitement, the ceremonies, and even the ridiculous outfits. I love that despite all of the awful things that are happening in the world, that athletes can come together and engage in competition. And these athletes really are the best of the best. I mean, just look at Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, they embody perfection within their sport.
There is something comforting about watching the Olympics. It’s inspiring to hear the stories of athletes that for so hard to qualify for a competition that only occurs every four years, and for some, it may even be their only chance. But they do it anyway. They work hard to represent their country and to excel in their respective sports, and it’s entertaining as hell.
Every Olympic Games are important, and offer something unique, but these seem particularly special. Here're a few reasons why:
1. The Refugee Olympic Team
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One of the things I’m most excited about this year is the refugee olympic team. This is a team that couldn’t march behind their native flags because of conflicts in their country of origin. Instead, they joined together and with the support of the International Olympic Committee were granted a delegation to showcase their talents. Together, the ten athletes come from four different countries of origin and compete in three separate sports. The tenacity and resilience of these athletes are enough to inspire thousands of future Olympians.
2. The Pioneer: Ibtihaj Muhammad
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There is an American Muslim fencer who is the first American Olympian to compete in a hijab and she just won a medal for the U.S. women's team sabre. That's amazing at any rate, especially since the United States hasn't medaled in fencing for a few Olympics now. But more importantly, no one cares that she’s both Muslim and American, they care that she is a phenomenal athlete and helped the United States fencing team win a bronze medal. She even spoke up to Republican Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump! She represents a future of acceptance in both competitions, and the United States as a whole. Oh, and she founded her own fashion line that allows women to remain modest and still look modern!
3. The Political Break
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One of the under-appreciated benefits of the Olympics, especially for the United States, is that we finally get a break! For the first time in months, we get a break! The notifications that pop up from various news apps on my phone no longer always contain the names ‘Clinton’ or ‘Trump’. Instead, they celebrate victories of our athletes and share world-record shattering information. II'll take a Michael Phelps notification over another ridiculous Trump comment any day! What a nice change of pace!
4. The Opening Ceremony
For some people, their favorite part of the Olympics is the opening (and closing) ceremonies. It's the chance for the host country to really strut their stuff and show off their culture and history. However, the coordinators of the Rio Olympic opening ceremonies chose to take this as an opportunity to also warn the world about climate change. What an amazing platform on which to do so! Brazil is home to the Amazon, the largest rainforest in the world, and therefore they have a vested interest in protecting the world from the dangers of climate change. This bold statement made their opening ceremony even more special. They also had every olympian walk in plant a seed that will help grow the rainforest rather than diminish it!
5. The Magnitude
These Olympic games have been truly epic. More world records have been broken so far at these Olympics than ever before and by multiple countries. Some countries, like Fiji and Kosovo, have also earned their first medals ever! The margin between first and second place can vary from one-hundredth of a second in swimming to 8 points in gymnastics. The skill level at these games is beyond reproach. Athletes like Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and Kohei Uchimura are known as the best ever athletes in their sport. The skill level at these Olympic games is unprecedented and makes it even more thrilling to watch.
The Olympics only come once every four years, so it's definitely important to embrace them while they're here. I may not be able to do any of the things they do, or at least anywhere near their level, but I will enjoy watching them from my couch every minute I can.