Up until 1992 the Winter and Summer Olympic Games were held in the same years, but in compliance with a 1986 decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to place the Summer and Winter Games on separate four-year cycles in alternating even-numbered years, the next Winter Olympics after 1992 was in 1994. This allows all of us Olympics watching junkies the opportunity to go manic every two years instead of every four years. And so tonight it begins as the 2018 Winter Olympic games kick-off in South Korea. Right now the athletes are walking into the arena for the opening ceremonies and NBC has already aired some of the U.S. athletes stories which are always so interesting to watch, many moving some of us to tears.
I've loved watching the Olympics since I was a kid and have loved every minute of it - getting to know athletes like Mark Spitz, Dorothy Hamill, Bonnie Blair, the U.S. Olympic Hockey team - miracle on ice; Greg Louganis, Flo Jo, Mary Lou Retton, Michael Phelps, Eric & Beth Heiden, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, USA Women's Basketball (so dominant every Olympics), Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, golf returning to the 2016 Rio Olympic games, Usain Bolt, Torvill and Dean, Jean-Claude Killy, Alberto Tomba, Lindsey Vonn, Eddie the Eagle Edwards, the Jamaican bobsled team (this year there is a female Jamaican bobsled team competing), and on and on it goes with more to come in the ensuing weeks. Let the games and stories begin. Ice cream in the freezer, popcorn in the cupboard, snacks and chip dip at the ready....as the athletes soar to new heights let's hope we viewers don't soar to new larger pant sizes from sitting on our butts so many hours watching all this athletic prowess!
Yes the 2018 games are in South Korea and at this very moment they are showing the Korean athletes marching in - yes the NORTH and South Koreans are marching in as one - it is quite awe-inspiring and one can only hope this unity carries on long long long after the games have concluded.
The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger." If you sit and watch all the Olympics coverage - the viewer motto becomes FATTER, WIDER, STINKIER or in Latin Flabius, Fattius, Smellius. I, personally, will be going for the gold medal in this Olympics category!
Seriously though, I had the greatest honor of meeting and becoming a close friend with 5-time Olympian Willye White - a track and field medalist who, to me, epitomized what it means to be an Olympic champion. I met Willye long after her Olympic competitive days but she lived and presented herself until her dying day as a true Olympian in every sense of the word. She lit up any room with her smile, she gave of her time and energy to promote sports and a healthy lifestyle to inner-city kids, her speaking engagements moved the crowd to tears and standing ovations, she moved me beyond words with her power, passion and friendship. Every Olympic games remind me of this great lady gone too soon but whose spirit lives on every time the games begin.
When Willye was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she called me with this horrific news and I will never forget what she said to me as I gasped for air trying to take in what she had just told me - she said, "don't worry my friend - I don't have any regrets and I'm going to beat this anyway." That was Willye - always positive, always strong, always thinking of others. As her health unfortunately deteriorated down the road I wanted to get her something that would have some special meaning for us both and I found this fantastic Olympic rings logo'ed soft blanket and she loved it. I later found out she was buried with it on her - an Olympian in both life and death. Makes me tear up just thinking about it - I miss her larger than life Olympic-sized spirit every single day.
So who will emerge from the 2018 Winter Olympic games making new stories and champions for us to read about and talk about....will Illinois' own Bradie Tennell win gold in figure skating? Will the U.S. women's hockey team finally beat Team Canada? How will veteran Olympians Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Shani Davis do? Only time and many hours of snacking will tell. Happy Viewing my fellow Olympic viewing maniacs!
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