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Olympic FeverPosted Friday, February 19, 2010, at 12:52 PM
Me with one of the Olympic mascots at the triathlon course outside Beijing.
But volunteer journalism was not my only taste of the Olympics. I walked on the vast Olympic Green, where there were interesting and elaborate displays from each Olympic sponsor -- Johnson & Johnson showcased some of the famous terracotta warriors from Xi'an, and Volkswagen had a live acrobatic-type show. I sat in the "Bird's Nest" and watched as Usain Bolt, the sprinter from Jamaica, broke a world record and won a gold medal. I was feet away from Michael Phelps as he was interviewed by Meredith Viera on the Today Show.
It was an amazing experience, one I will never forget for sure. And this past week as I've been watching the Vancouver winter games, I've been thinking a lot about it. I've seen some flash-quotes reporters standing on the sidelines, as the cameramen pan across the ice skating rink, and I must say there's a part of me that envies them. That's the part that adores Evan Lysecek. The part that hates cold weather is not so jealous, though NBC has reported that downtown Vancouver was in the 50s the past few days, when it was in the 30s here.
Anyway, I've also been thinking about the spectacle that is the Olympics and its purpose. Supposedly, the games will bring nations together and promote international exchange, like in the case of American skier Lindsay Vonn who is close with a fellow German skier. But in reality, competing against other nations would seem to foster nationalism more than internationalism. And what does it say about us when we want another gold medal so badly that Vonn is pushed to compete, even though she is injured?
And then there is the vast expense. The Beijing games cost about $40 billion, according to the Boston Globe, though some say the price tag is much higher because not all infrastructure improvements were included in that sum. The Canadian government has spent a much smaller sum, about Canadian $6 billion or U.S. $5.7 billion, on the current games. But still, that's a lot of money to be spent on something that could almost be deemed frivolous, especially in a time of worldwide economic suffering.
Although it may sound like it, I really don't mean to be Olympic bashing. Obviously, I had a great personal experience with the Olympics, and I think we all enjoy watching amazing displays of athleticism. Plus, there is a certain splendor in continuing a tradition begun millennia ago by one of the greatest ancient civilizations (even if we have dropped the art and music aspects of the original Greek games). But sometimes it seems as if the important things, the heritage and the human glory, are overshadowed by shiny facilities, corporate sponsorship and national arrogance.
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Something about music. Something about small towns. Something about Hong Kong. Or maybe something else entirely.
Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.