The 2010 Winter Olympics begin tonight in Vancouver and I'll be watching.
Though I'm not much of an athlete and I don't really follow sports, I always love watching the Olympics. Something about the pageantry, the Parade of Nations, the chance to see people excelling at what they love... it warms my heart. I love to cheer on the United States, the underdogs, and whoever catches my fancy.
CNN ran an opinion piece today by Fulbright scholar Robert A. Kaufman about why the Olympics matter. The piece mentions a story about the 2006 Olympics; Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner entered her race as an underdog, having placed "no higher than eighth" in Olympic events four years earlier. In the middle of the last heat, however, Renner's ski pole broke, effectively knocking her out of the competition.
Opposing ski coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen saw what happened and handed over his Norwegian team's spare pole. Renner and her teammate completed the race with a second-place finish, while the Norwegian team didn't medal.
Kaufman continues to explain that Renner was so touched that she gave Håkensmoen a big thank you and a bottle of wine. The Canadians were so touched by Håkensmoen's kindness that they developed Project Maple Syrup, which shipped over 7,000 cans of the nation's pride and joy to Håkensmoen and Norwegians. Håkensmoen, for his part, remains humble about his part in the story, saying simply that "It was natural for me to do it, and I think anyone should have done it."
Kaufman encourages his readers to remember the collaborative spirit of the Canadian and Norwegian cross-country teams as they tune in to tonight's Olympic festivities. He encourages viewers to not only root for the United States, but for all nations participating in the Games.
I agree wholeheartedly. While I wish the United States much success, I also hope that the Canadians can win some events "at home" and that some of the underdogs have a chance to shine. Regardless of the Games' outcome, I am eager for another chance to cheer on my country and the athletes of the world.
So tune in tonight to watch the Olympics on NBC!