This weekend marks the opening of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. We've already heard about the Russian welcoming committee, especially for the LGBT community, the lack of security as multiple cyber hackers - including the government - all tap into your private electronic conversations, and buildings still under construction regardless of the start of the games.
As they say, "Let the games begin."
We'll start tracking the medal count as the northern European countries race into the lead in the cross country events then a spattering of gold, silver, and bronze among their neighbors before the count settles in around Russia and the U.S. to prove who had the better athletes. Every night ends with the awarding of the medals of the day and playing the national anthem as the decorated athletes get their moment in the spotlight. We'll listen to interviews ad nauseum of America's greatest success stories of the games and foreign athletes with interpreters so bad they make the Mandela sign guy look like the Rosetta Stone.
One of my favorite Olympic athletes of all time never won a medal. Never got his national anthem played while he stood atop the podium. But he did get his fifteen minutes of fame. In the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Michael Edwards, better known as "Eddie the Eagle", became the first athlete to represent Great Britain in the Ski Jumping competition. You know the same sport many of us grew up knowing as the "agony of defeat" from ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Finishing last in both the 70-meter and 90-meter events, many saw his failure as comical but to me what he did in Calgary that year emphasized the true Olympic Spirit. Most don't know that at the time, The Eagle was the English Ski Jump record holder, the world's ninth ranked amateur in speed skiing, and the stunt jumping world record holder (10 cars/five buses).
How can you not love somebody like Eddie the Eagle? Or not find yourself cheering on the Jamaican Bobsled team as they come barreling down the course chanting "Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it's bobsled time,"? And even have a soft spot in your heart for Julia Marino, a young lady with dual U.S. and Paraguayan citizenship that used her down time after an injury to apply and be approved for being Paraguay's first winter Olympian.
We too often get caught up in crowning the champion and acknowledging their greatness that we miss out on the real stories behind these remarkable athletes. Not everyone can be a champion - in fact by nature only one person or team can be champion at a time. There are a lot of great success stories along the way that brought these athletes to this point in the competition that should be receiving their own reward. Personal bests, pushing your competitor to her limits, and the thrill of competition itself are just some of the products of these athletes' hard work.
French educator Pierre de Coubertin, the person given credit for reviving the modern Olympic Games said, "The Olympic games were created for the exhaltation of the individual athlete."
I truly think he meant it for all athletes.