Last Saturday evening, as I sat down to eat dinner at a restaurant in the Village, I looked up at the television and was confused. I asked my friend why NBC would show what I believed to be competitive speed skating on a random Saturday night past their prime time window. My friend was quick to point out that it was not just some random international speed skating competition — it was the Winter Olympics.
I was shocked. I had completely forgotten about a global sporting event. News alerts had come across my screen to warn me, articles had passed through my different social media news feeds, I had watched NBC Sports Network earlier that day, and yet I still erased it from my memory.
To be completely honest, I had always thought of the Winter Olympics as slightly irrelevant. I considered it to be the little brother to the highly anticipated Summer Olympics, with events like curling and ski jumping (both of which I had to Google to make sure they were still part of the Winter Olympics) it was hard for me to take the wintertime event seriously. Sure, these sports can be entertaining, but it’s difficult to find the amazing athleticism that is so consistently on display in the Summer Olympics.
It was also hard to get excited about these current Olympics given current events. Being that the Olympics are hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea, there are huge geopolitical implications that linger around the competition. With North Korean athletes competing, certain Russian athletes competing as Olympic Athletes from Russia (the Russian team is banned as a result of their widespread doping scandal), and the United States’ current reputation on a global scale, questions about current international relations and political regimes clouded for me what is meant to be an occasion to celebrate our wide range of spectacular athletes at their pinnacle.
However, this week, I found that there is actually so much to enjoy about the Winter Olympics. The thrills of the Olympics are not the events you anticipate and take up the primetime blocks, but rather the daytime fillers. Turning on the broadcast in the middle of the day you can find events you have no knowledge about and become completely consumed. You become attached to athletes you have never heard of before from either home or abroad, and you cheer them to success as you try to understand the rules and methods of the event.
Events like bobsled, luge, or the biathlon are competitions you only see once every four years, and you will probably never see the same competitors, so you dive into the moment, taking it in for all it is. You watch as athletes you have never heard of become familiar names by their second run, and you hope they can shave off a second here or catch their opponents there. By the end of the competition you become such an expert on the sport you believe you can spot a mistake made by an athlete right away.
Monday, before I watched 17-year-old phenom Chloe Kim crush the halfpipe, I watched the 1,500-meter speed skating competition, then later a freestyle skiing competition. In all of these I knew none of the people competing at the start, but by the end there were athletes I was rooting for. As the competition heads into the weekend, I personally cannot wait to watch events like the bobsled and skeleton just to see the pure speed athletes fly in these races. Hopefully everyone can find something to cheer on as well.