The Olympics are an amazing thing. I’m not necessarily referring to the athletic feats accomplished, even though they are spectacular. They are amazing in how they develop a sense of national pride and teach admiration for dedication.
A lot of the athletes at this year’s summer Olympics will never be rich because of their sports. Sure, these days, there are NBA players, although if the league has their way, that will soon change in favor of competition at a World Basketball Classic type tournament that the owners can use for financial profit. However, a majority of the athletes work day jobs, paid a majority of their way to the Olympics, and will go back to normal lives as soon as the games are over.
For some, such as gymnastics and diving, they will find their careers winding down early in their lives, replaced by athletes who are younger and more capable of the impossible feats they make look so easy.
Fencers aren’t looking at millions in professional leagues, neither are judokas, wrestlers, or many other athletes. Still, they come out every four years, and they represent their countries proudly. I have an immense amount of pride in how most of them represent my country. And now, as the father of a four-year old who has never seen the Olympics before, I have an immense appreciation for the inspiration they have given my son.
Every night, we have been watching the Olympics. He watches and sees that hard work and personal goals can be their own rewards. We have set up our own events at home. The living room became archery and shooting ranges. The basement, where I normally practice martial arts, became a boxing and taekwondo arena, the bed a wrestling and judo mat.
Now, when he runs, he gets down in invisible starting blocks and takes off on the sound of an imaginary gun. He says he is going to swim in the Olympics and he is going to go faster than everyone. He takes part in imaginary medal ceremonies, using medals I won, and sings an imaginary national anthem while covering his heart with his hand. He knows our flag, and he points it out wherever he sees it.
I know this influence won’t last forever. I know that it will be another four years before the summer Olympics will come along again. Still, there are worse things to learn as a four year-old, and in an era when so many people seem to be afraid to express pride in their country, I am thankful that we have the Olympics to make it okay again.
The medal count in London continues to climb. We see amazing feats as records continue to fall. We hear about countries that steal children away from their parents and put them in sports camps at young ages. We hear rumors of countries that only show appreciation for gold, and who punish failure. Yet, our society of free choice continues to perform well. The young men and women we sent to London continue to prove to be our finest.
I would like to personally thank all of the athletes competing at the London games this year. Your performances have been amazing. Your example has been generally unfaltering. But your influence on my son has been priceless.