I don’t like sports. I don’t like participating in them. I don’t like watching them. I find the entire concept inane and uninteresting. I’ve been known to dabble in archery and watch the occasional UFC fight, and that’s about it.
But I am a complete, unapologetic Olympics fanboy, and I am thoroughly looking forward to watching as much as I can of the London 2012 Games over the next few weeks.
This may seem a contradiction, but I don’t think the Olympics are really about sport, at their core.
In ancient times, the Olympics signaled a time of truce. All wars were suspended between the disparate city-states of Greece, and even the death penalty was forbidden. Bitter enemies were able to put aside their differences and come together in the spirit of honour and sportsmanship.
Unfortunately, the tradition of the Olympic truce has not survived to the modern era, but the Games still embody that same spirit of unity. The Olympics bring together Israelis and Palestinians, North and South Koreans, Americans and Iranians, and countless other rivals, and their delegations are able to coexist peacefully and respectfully.
The Olympics are one of the few times or places where all the cultures of the world can gather together as one people: as a unified human race. The Olympics are a time when the things that make us different become something to be celebrated, not hated.
In sci-fi and fantasy, you will often encounter the idea of a united human race, without nations or divisions. It’s a beautiful dream, and I firmly believe it will have to one day to come to pass if humans are continue to survive and prosper, but it always seems such a distance and unrealistic goal.
Except during the Olympics. The Olympics are arguably the closest we ever come to the kind of united Earth we see in Star Trek, and for just a few weeks every few years, I can allow myself to believe that there may eventually come a day without nations, where the petty divisions between us cease to matter.
This is why I love the Olympics. At their core, they’re about driving humans beyond what we normally believe ourselves capable of, and the athletic feats are just a small part of that.
The Olympics give me hope. They make me feel like there’s a chance for a better future, and that my faith in humanity is not just an illusion. They make our own reality just a little bit superior.
There’s a song the TV stations play in Canada during their Olympic coverage, called “I Believe.” It’s a fairly smarmy song, and suffice it to say my views on it are quite mixed, but some of the lyrics do excellently capture how I feel about the Olympics:
I believe in the power that comes from a world brought together as one.
My latest WhatMMO article is 6 Most Exciting Races. No prizes for guessing what I picked for the top spot.