I miss the summer Olympics. It's been a several weeks now and my family still hasn't filled the void. We feel like we have nothing to watch on TV. We feel like there's nothing to really rally behind. And, we feel like our patriotism needs a jump start. We want our Olympians, our sports and our competitive spirit. We've got a case of the Olympics blues and we've got it bad.
I've always been a fan of the Olympics - summer and winter - but I entered a new league of fanaticism after experiencing the 2012 London games through the eyes of my two sons. From the time the world's greatest athletes entered Olympic Stadium, they were hooked.
Fueling the Olympic Fervor
Any time our TV was on, the Olympics was on. My boys watched each sport - foreign and familiar - with awe and inspiration. They stood behind our country, our athletes and the games. And I loved it.
The Olympics exposed them to new sports beyond their wildest dreams. It exposed them to real heroes with amazing athletic "superpowers." It exposed them to new languages, cultures and countries. And, it opened their eyes to the world.
A week after the games began, we boarded a plane for France. While our sons were hesitant to leave the games behind and readily questioned our logic in pulling them away from their favorite athletes, sports and commercials, they felt comforted by being flown by United, the airline that flew our very own Olympians to London for the games. Oh the beauty of marketing...
Cheering on the Olympians... in Paris
While in France, my sons' Olympic fervor didn't dissipate. It only blossomed and grew. And, it wasn't due to being glued to the TV (thank goodness!). No. It was thanks to the people - of France and other American travelers we encountered during our vacation.
On our very first afternoon in Paris, we found ourselves at the city's Hotel de Ville (city hall). The square in front of the ornate 18th century building was crowded with people cheering on the French teams as they participated in their respective competitions. And, boy do Parisians know how to cheer for their teams in style!
One end of the square featured a huge screen visible from blocks away. The best seats to view the constant stream of French Olympians were... Bean bags! Next best was a chair at one of the dozens of tables scattered behind the bean bags. No matter where you sat (or stood!) the experience could be made even better with a glass of champagne or beer sold from the "pub" at the other end of the square.
Being in Paris we, of course, had to cheer on the French teams. Nothing could have been more fun to lend our voices to the cheering fans - even if some of their shouts of encouragement were lost in translation.
One of the highlights for us was being able to watch the French handball team win the gold medal on the last day of the games. My sons were lucky to grab spots on top of one of the coveted tables so we could catch a glimpse of the action on the big screen. And we'll never forget the excitement of the local Parisians when their team beat Sweden. Now we just need to find out the rules of the game!
Fanning the Olympic Fire
This summer I saw the amazing impact the Olympics can have on children (especially mine!). It encouraged patriotism, healthy competitiveness and a true passion for sports. It showed them that anyone, anywhere can achieve greatness and truly be a hero worth aspiring too. And, it proved that you don't just need to win a medal to feel good about yourself and your achievements. Being among other greats can seal your place in history.
So, now that it's over, how can we keep the Olympic fire alive?
- In our house, the Olympics are still happening. Just yesterday my very own "Michael Phelps" stood on the arm of our family room couch, pounded his chest, and dove into the cushions. Of course he won the heat - by a huge margin. The Olympics have now become part of my sons' role playing - and I always happily encourage it.
- We continue to scan the TV stations for national team soccer, rugby and other international matches to catch a glimpse of a 2012 Olympian and try to predict who we might catch on the field, in the pool or on the track in 2016. Our TiVo is full of games to get to - if only we had more time!
- We were happy to see our sons' school offers handball for gym class - and we can't wait to catch a game. We're on the lookout of other fun sporting events to check out this fall.
- We're wearing our passion our sleeves. Literally. My sons were excited to find US Olympic teams shorts at the store the other day. And my husband could live in his US Olypmic soccer jersey.
I know eventually the fire will fade as my sons get more involved in school and their interests turn to new things. But, I'm still going to my best to find ways to keep the spirt for the sports and the games alive - and have already started counting down the games until the 2014 winter games!
What about you... Are you and/or your family feeling the Olympic void? Have you found some ways to keep the spirit alive? Let me know - I'd love to hear!
Here's to world citizens - big and small!