Without a hint of shame or irony, the Olympics seek to unite people of all races, nations and religions under the banner of friendly competition. Even if only temporarily and within a tightly controlled bubble, they illustrate that we can indeed all get along. In so doing, they embrace the potential for greatness in all mankind and invite us to do the same. Like some global Christmas for sports fans, the Games are an opportunity for us to let down our collective guard and be a little nicer... If only for a few weeks.
Just as they do for Christmas, cynics will bitterly insist that's an antiquated concept. They'll make the case that to "buy into" the Games is to fall for decades of ingenious marketing and jingoistic mind control. They'll make it clear that such naïveté borders on willful ignorance. If they fancy themselves intellectuals they may even throw in something about "opiates for the masses."
To them I say, isn't it time for your 3 pm Caramel Macchiato and Zoloft chaser?
However, in fairness, to some extent they're right. One need look no further than Hitler's use of the games as a Nazi proving ground or McDonald's attempts at correlating gold medals with Big Macs to see it. Except the fact that both of those live on as spectacular examples of how NOT to use the Olympics only proves my point.
The Olympic torch is a beacon that draws us out of the egotism and drudgery of our daily pursuits toward something transcendent. At their root, the appeal of the Games is the timeless appeal to our own better natures. Be it through the poise of the young Polish woman who sacrifices a normal life to win bronze in an event nobody will watch or in the daily sacrifices of a stay at home dad, an occasional reminder is needed that money isn't the sole measure of fortune and there's a major difference between fame and glory. The Olympics recognize... No, celebrate those distinctions.
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