When athletes march in, Winter Olympics truly shine

The United States Winter Olympics athletes march in Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia. (From TV screen)

The United States Winter Olympics athletes march in Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia. (From TV screen)

Sochi sure looked pretty for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games last night.

So much had been reported in the run-up to the start of this convention of the world’s best athletes in winter sports that I wasn’t totally sure what to expect as NBC broadcast (on delay) the event from Fisht Stadium.

Unfinished venues and city infrastructure. Unready accommodations for athletes and the media covering the games. Political philosophies so different from ours, including onerous laws against gay people. Threat of terrorism.

The world is an increasingly complicated place every time the torch is brought into another stadium to start another edition of the Games. And that’s every two years instead of four since the International Olympic Committee staggered the Summer and Winter Games in 1994.

We’d be naive to think that any sort of gathering of this magnitude could take place without controversy, worry and political conflict.

But when the contingents of athletes march into the stadium, waving the flags of their nation, smiling in gratitude for the host fans in the stadium and, so simply, proud of being there in the moment, the Olympics are still great.

The spectacular Russia presented to the world was quite beautiful, full of cultural and historical highlights. It lit the stadium with the hope of children, including a brave fifth-grade girl who soared to the heights, connected to a kite and much wire.

The noticeable glitch came when one of five stars refused to change into circle, leaving the world famous Olympic logo one interlocking oval short of completion. Russia President Vladimir Putin was caught by NBC cameras looking on sternly from his stadium seat next to IOC President Thomas Bach.

That was unfortunate, sure.

But it’s OK. A footnote, really. Forgotten by the time the two great Russian Olympians, ice skater Irina Rodnina and hockey goalie Vladimir Tretiak, let the Olympic cauldron in a goose-bump moment.

Along with fellow stadium torch-carriers, tennis star Maria Sharapova, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, wrestler Aleksandr Karelin and gymnast Alina Kabaeva, these athletes were rewarded for accomplishing what so few do.

As the events wind down with much drama during its 16-day run, only a small handful of these happy athletes will actually take the stand to receive the gold, silver and bronze medals.

These should not be the only winners in Sochi.

Every athlete can return home with memories of accepting differences and discovering similarities. They should forever be better for sharing the athletic stage, indeed, life itself, with peers from 200 countries.

And the world should take note. Peace can prevail when it comes down to the people.

Do you get caught up in the Olympic spirit? Will you watch on NBC and its sister stations? If so, what sports are you looking forward to in Sochi?

The Opening Ceremonies from Sochi, on NBC (From TV screen)

The Opening Ceremonies from Sochi, on NBC. (From TV screen)

30 thoughts on “When athletes march in, Winter Olympics truly shine

  1. It is a shame how the news focus sometimes takes away from the wonder of our having an international competition, that usually goes fairly amicably. The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday (Feb. 9) said that there may be some kind of a hidden agreement (between Russia and America?) about the skating competition. I was so saddened to hear that kind of rumor. I hope not! Anyway, I posted my Mom’s and my hopes for Katie Uhlaender (her dad was a Cleveland Indians player and coach, Cincy. Reds’ championship player and Columbus Clippers coach.) She will do the ‘skeleton run’ that looks like a flimsy sled on a tough bobsled run. Hope no injuries for her! I am a big promoter of Peace in this world, let it begin soon! Robin


    • i do believe that I recall Max Uhleander’s playing days, Robin. Thanks for that! Go Katie. Now I will be rooting for her in the skeleton, too. And, secret agreement about rigging results. Please, no.


  2. Opening Olympics Event was awesome and beautiful. So nice of you to have your post well prepared and filling in any ‘holes’ in my viewing experience, Mark! Thanks! I enjoyed the U.S. duo of figure skating to “My Fair Lady,” too! And their winning that round of the competition, too! Smiles, Robin


    • I was commenting that it’s easy to forget what the Olympics is really about with the real world reminding us daily of all of the trouble and controversy that swirls around the Games now. Thanks, Robin.


  3. Love the winter Olympics. So proud of our GB snowboarders being in the top ten. They train on dry slopes in Halifax,UK. No snow in training and they still manage to be world class at their sport. For me that’s what it’s all about – the competitors doing their best.


  4. I wanted to like them. I always enjoy the summer olympics. Last night gave me the willies. The little girl was cute, but it was too much weirdness for me to enjoy.


  5. I love the Olympics and do get caught up in them. I love the camaraderie between the athletes and the moments of accomplishing dreams. And the very personal stories we learn of the athletes and their journeys. Wonderful post Mark.


  6. I am a long-time Olympic Lover and Enthusiast, although that has waned in recent years. I didn’t even expect to watch the opening ceremonies last night, but I couldn’t resist joining in (after the glitch, although I kept hearing references to it from the announcers). I have the part I missed on DVR; I expect to watch it and see what I missed. I’m glad I didn’t miss this post today, Mark. Thank you.


    • Interesting, Ann. My Olympics fever has waned just a bit as the years march on, but for the opening ceremony I am always ready. After two weeks, I’m ready to get back to my regular (life and) programming.


      • I think I resisted this year, Mark, because I’m going to be away for the Olympics, and I’m not sure how much I’m going to be watching. Also, I sometimes get mad at the commentators (especially when they focus on the few mistakes out of the kashmillion wonderful things that are happening, like they did last night).


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