Posted by: Joe English | August 9, 2008

Olympics: Olympic Games open in Beijing; ushering in my favorite time every four years

BEIJING — With the entire world watching, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games have opened in Beijing China. The opening ceremonies were a brilliant display of the grandure of China, its culture and its long heritage.

So read the headlines around the world today.

All of this is true, but as a sports fan, I must admit that there is more to the opening of the Summer Olympics than a grand world stage and the world’s largest LED screen (which was wickedly cool, by the way).

Bear with me here for a moment. Running and triathlon are my life. When it comes to running, I’m an athlete, a coach, a journalist and a fan. That means that sports are my life.

But I’m not the sit-down-and-watch-sports kinda of a guy. I’m a get-out-there-and-do-sports kinds of a guy. So on any given Saturday afternoon, you won’t find me watching football, Nascar, or any other sport on the couch. Yet, today, I’m sitting on my couch typing this and watching women’s beach volleyball. It’s awesome. But let me get back to that.

The opening of the Summer Olympics, for me at least, is the dawning of the only two-weeks every four years when I get to watch my favorite sports on TV. Like Track and Field, Swimming, Running, and Cycling. Not only do I get to watch them, I get to talk about them with people that have nothing to do with my favorite sports in the intervening time between these four year interludes of sports-awesomeness. Just this morning, down at the local Starbucks, someone asked me if I knew if swimming was going to be on tonight. “Yes!” I exclaimed with glee.

And its not only my favorite sports that everyone is talking about and watching. There are all kinds of other sports out there, some of which might be sort of only barely sports at all. But for this two week period, you can turn on the TV — that dusty thing in the corner of my living room — and sports will be on. Even if it is fencing, synchornized swimming, or sailing, it’s just plain awesome.

When the Summer Olympics hit the stage, I am transported back to my childhood and have vivid memories of Joan Benoit, Carl Lewis and Mark Spitz. I remember the games in LA, in Sydney, in Barcelona, in Atlanta, and in Athens. These were huge moments. These were moments that inspired me to push myself as an athlete and to dream of my own Olympic moments — even though I was never near good enough to get there myself.

The Olympics are the pinnacle of sports in many ways, especially for these sports that don’t always get the mindshare that they might actually deserve. These men and women work hard with incredible discipline and determination to get to this stage. And because of that, we share their moment with them and bask in the emotional greatness of it all.

Sure, when NBC opened the Olympics last night with a montage of beautiful images of China, I felt a little like I was seeing China’s greatest hits — beatiful vistas, splendid isolated lakes, a happy child alone on a bridge over a quiet river. This isn’t the China that I’ve visited, with its crush of humanity, chocking smog and rivers of cars, motorcycles and bikes. But all that is OK with me, because the opening was just a prelude. It was just setting the stage for the amazing two weeks of sporting action to come.

From the track to the velodrome to the beach volleyball stadium, Olympic dreams are about to granted to thousands of athletes and we get to bask in it with them. For the next weeks, we get to celebrate the pinnacle of sports that most people won’t think about for another four years. But for those of us that think about them every day, this is going to an awesome ride.

You’ll have to excuse me now, but the men’s cycling road race is coming on and I can’t miss this.

Enjoy the Games! That’s my plan.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News
http://www.running-advice.com

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