The Olympic Side Effect

The United States often gets accused for being ethnocentric and self-centered. And these interpretations are rooted in some truth. The US has always been a culture that embraces the individual, and doing anything to get ahead: self-actualization. There are parts of that focus that are positive and allow incredible stories of accomplishment, and there are parts that come across as selfish and arrogant.

This is where the Olympics are such an important window into ourselves and the world at large. The Olympics is not a political event, but that is what gives it so much influence, and why I argue everyone should watch as much Olympic coverage as possible. When watching the Olympics, I feel a resurgence of patriotism. No matter how much I may disapprove of certain politics and policies, or how many flaws I may at times see in our societal and cultural influences, the Olympics brings forth the underlying love for my country. Seeing athletes compete with a competitive spirit, but also with respect and awe for other athletes becomes an example of everything that is right with our country. Seeing a successful athlete stand on a podium with tears in their eyes as they watch our flag raised and our national anthem played, evokes in us the purest form of patriotism. And that is a very good thing.

But there is another Olympic side effect that is equally important. And that is exposure to other countries…to our global community at large. Whether it’s discovering the names of a few more small countries and where they are located from the opening ceremony or cheering for a foreign underdog team, the Olympics provides an opportunity to take in the global spectrum. No matter how much we disagree with a country’s government or leader, the Olympics brings the people behind that government into perspective. It shows us that everywhere in the world are human beings who have dreams and goals, who work hard, and who get the same tears in their eyes that our athletes do when they get to see their flags and hear their anthems.

And because of that, we respect their accomplishments and understand their emotions. And through that understanding, we become that much closer and the world becomes that much better.

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