My little family has been together in the USA for a little over 3 years now, and mostly, we are happy here. Mostly we are settled and starting to feel like this is our home, and I’m even surprised at how, when we travel back to Ontario Canada, for holidays and vacations, I get homesick for this place – our cozy first floor rental in this historic little town in New Jersey of all places. I’m integrating (slowly) into the culture here – like learning how yellow stop lights don’t mean slow down here, and red doesn’t mean stop. I have a deep understanding of what it means to crave a Starbucks Frappuccino, and I’m learning how to establish an identity in a place of a million faces.
But when those 5 rings raise over the world’s top athletic competitors, there is no amount of Frappuccino on earth that can keep my heart from almost bursting with immense pride and devotion to the country of my birth. Nothing makes me want to move straight home, grab a Timmie’s and some Swiss Chalet, and snuggle up under a fur blanket in my igloo quite like the Olympic games. Especially when we have uniforms that looked like this!
Living abroad during the Olympics is a bitter and sweet experience though. While I miss my home sweet home, living in the USA means I can always root for the Red, White and Blue! And what a beautiful, terrible, comforting and scary thing that is! To cheer for my country’s biggest rival seems unpatriotic at best, but it’s a realization with this Olympic games that I am starting to identify with Americans. Not on paper, but in culture, and I find myself excited when an American stands on the podium, when the stars and stripes are raised and when the beautiful melody of The Star-Spangled Banner fills the air.
Our great big earth is covered in immigrants, isn’t it? I know Canadians and Americans who are living in countries all over the world. Are we all cheering for our homelands, and the current countries we inhabit? Do we all have 2 teams? I hope so! Because Canada and America are full of immigrants too, and I would like to think all of those people are cheering for our athletes along with their home teams as well! And that’s the beauty of the Olympic Games. It brings the world together like no other sporting event does.
There is no pleasure in cheering for any team but your own favorite when watching hockey or football, or most other organized sports. Last month, Broncos fans, at no point, decided it was ok that the Seahawks were kicking their butts. They probably didn’t spend much time clapping in respectful appreciation for what their opponent had accomplished. Sports rivalries run deep, don’t they? In fact, regularly soft-spoken individuals can get outright frenzied when they watch their team play!
But the Olympics brings out something so much different in us all. Something better in us all. And I think this change in the human mindset can be attributed to the Olympic athletes themselves.
So many athletes are immigrants – men and women who were born in one country, were raised in another, and compete for either. And often, these athletes train somewhere completely different. And perhaps this is why Olympic athletes are so special. Made of a different cloth, some might say. They host a competition schedule that requires them to surround themselves with many different cultures, ethnicities and landscapes. They challenge people from many countries, but it seems that somewhere along the way, they all become friends! They cheer for and congratulate each other! And this lights a spark inside of me that seems to give me permission to do the same.
And it doesn’t stop at my Can-American experience, either. I was audibly excited when the 2 Mulder brothers from the Netherlands were racing against one another in speed skating – and screaming with joy when they both got podium spots, and their Dutch teammate got one too! I was thrilled for Russian figure skaters Maxime Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar after their free skate! Their exuberance was contagious, and their excitement and relief actually made me tear up a little! Night after night there have been lots of great reasons to cheer for countries I’ve never visited, for people I’ve never heard of, and for athletes who aren’t on my team.
It’s the brilliance of these people who bring this spirit out in us. The way they are so talented that hundredths of points and seconds are all that separate winners from, well, not winners. The way they constantly push the boundaries of their sports, inventing impressive skills and techniques, and adjusting to the latest technology with grace and exuberance.
It’s the way they are contagiously excited to win, and sometimes fiercly disappointed to lose. They carry our expectations on their shoulders, and it’s a responsibility they don’t take lightly. It’s the way they congratulate each other in their disappointment and take losing in stride, even when it’s a realization that their dream didn’t come true. It’s in the outpouring of love to their coaches, and to each other. It’s how they give praise to their families who carried much of the burden of training. How much they really really love the country they compete for.
Olympic athletes – thank you from all of us! Thank you for being so sportsmanlike and kind. Thank you for teaching our kids to chase dreams and kick their goals in the butt. Thank you for falling down, hurting your bodies, damaging your skin and breaking bones for the love of sport. Thank you for being innovative and creative. Thank you for not giving up, or for sometimes giving up everything. Thank you for being some of the greatest role models our kids will ever see. Thank you for choosing to give up your home and your time with family, and for even putting off wedding plans to represent all of us. Thank you for being the closest thing to superheroes we have on earth.
You’ve done it well, and we are so proud of you.
We are so proud of you.
You give us great things to cheer for. You give us moments we can teach from. You exemplify Olympic spirit, and I think, what the human spirit should be all about, too. To watch you is a gift.
Canada – I miss you. And our Olympians have made me so proud to call myself a Canuck. America – I’m happy to be part of you, too! And the 2014 Olympic Games are showing me more than ever, how blessed I am to be a part of two great nations.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), all of these things apply except during Canada vs US Olympic hockey!