Anamika Dutta ‘20
Chief Culture Editor
The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off on February 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the typical grand spectacle that is the Opening Ceremony, Pyeongchang delivered fireworks, drones that morphed into the famous Olympic rings, complex choreography, and an overall theme of peace, as Korean singers banded together to perform John Lennon’s timeless “Imagine.” Contributing to the aura of harmony and unity, North Korea and South Korea marched under a united flag for the first time in the history of the games, with millions of people watching worldwide.
Why do host countries spend billions of dollars preparing for the Olympics? What is it about the Olympics that catches the world’s attention and makes them so widely publicized and anticipated?
For some context, let’s go on a short history lesson. The Olympics originated in Olympia, Greece, in 776 B.C. The Games were components of a broader religious festival, in which athletes paid homage to Zeus and Pelops. Athletes were allowed to travel to Olympia from their respective cities without fear of being attacked. The winners were greatly recognized and given the satisfaction of asserting dominance over their neighboring cities. When the Games were reinstated in 1896, they brought together 14 nations, and their final renovation in 1912 solidified the first of the Modern Olympics. Since then, more than 200 countries come together every four years (either in the summer or the winter) to compete on a world stage. On a more obvious level, the Olympics provide accomplished athletes from all over the world in nearly every sport under the sun an opportunity to compete against other accomplished athletes from different countries. Winning a medal is not only a great source of pride for the athlete’s country, but also a symbol of years and years of hard work that have paid off for the athlete. It is incredibly exciting to see these athletes give their heart and soul in their respective events, especially for young kids who watch the Games and look up to the athletes. The Olympics transform the non-sports fan into an avid viewer, as people are so drawn in by the intensity and passion of the athletes towards their events. They serve as a source of patriotism to cheer for one’s country.
On a deeper level, the Olympics are a symbol of the world’s countries putting aside their differences for the sake of fostering healthy competition. For two weeks every four years, the social, economic, and political struggles within our own countries and within the world are put to the side in a show of unity. For example, this year Vice President Mike Pence sat in the same box as South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in the Opening Ceremony. Just the presence of these three people together, when President Trump has recently been trying to get the Kim regime to abolish their nuclear program through a flurry of tweets, speaks volumes about putting aside political differences to support the world’s athletes. The Olympics also represent a changing world: from the 1968 Black Power Salute in Mexico City, to the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro summer Games, to North Korea and South Korea marching under a unified flag almost two weeks ago, and to the U.S. team’s first two openly gay athletes in the Winter Olympics. As the world evolves, the Olympics evolve. In the process, they give us hope for a world with more unity and peace, which includes athletes who accurately represent the values and backgrounds of people in our countries.