I really enjoy the Olympics. There is pageantry, patriotism and performances to dazzle the senses and quicken the heart. I watch as much as I can (cursing the broadcasters decision to not televise some sports or only televise them on cable channels I don’t get or being sexist in their coverage) and grow misty eyed at the stories of athletes overcoming much to reach the Olympics. I cheer as Team USA climbs to the top of the podium.
And climb they did!
The United States won 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze medals. That puts our medal total at 121. The next highest country, China, only had 70 medals total.
And our women! My, how far we’ve come.
In 2016, almost half (44%) of the Olympic medals were awarded to women’s events. That is huge increase from the only 25% in 1984 and not even being allowed to watch, much less participate in the ancient games.
The US Olympic team was comprised of 554 members, of which 291 were women. Those women went on to earn 61 of those 121 medals – including more than half (27) of the gold medals. Sakes alive but I love Title IX!
Team LGBT had a very big presence at the 2016 games as well. A record 55 Out athletes competed. Of special note is that TEAM LGBT’s medal count beat every country that criminalizes gay sex with twenty five Out athletes winning medals.
The athletes were smart, too – there are 1,018 incoming, current and former NCAA student-athletes representing 107 countries and 223 US colleges and universities scheduled to compete.
There are certainly problems with the games – corruption in the awarding of games, financial ruin for many nations/cities who host, issues around gender defining, use of performance enhancing drugs, marketing gone amok, etc. But, to see those smiling faces of the athletes as they hold their medals and hear their nation’s anthem play is to make it all worthwhile.
Because the Olympic ideal IS worthwhile – the best and the brightest, putting their bodies and hearts on the line and achieving excellence through competition. The Olympic motto is inspiring, too – “Citius, altius, fortius” meaning “swifter, higher, stronger.”
As the crafter of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, put it: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
Now I just have to get through the next four years until the next Olympics.
* The title of this blog post comes from a poem by Pindar:
Who, then was given
the wreath of victory
for his speed of foot,
putting before his eyes
the game’s glory,
achieving thought in action?