Welcome to part 2 of 30 of my Ramblin’ to Paris series. If you’re new here, check out last week’s piece where I introduced the where/what/why/when of this weekly series.
Those that know me know I watch and follow more sports than I have time to keep tabs on. Some sport is a topic of conversation in at least 90% of the interactions I have with my friends and family. Of the hundreds of blogs here at SB Nation, there are very few I wouldn’t be able to contribute something to. The Olympics are no exception.
Much of my love for the Olympics is tied directly to my parents involvement in the 1996 Olymipcs. They got married in May of 1996, spending about a year in Atlanta before moving to Seattle. I like to call the Atlanta Olympics my parents’ “2nd honeymoon,” because they lived and breathed those 17 days as much as they could during Atlanta’s brightest moment. My dad was at Underground Atlanta at the watch party when IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch announced Atlanta would host in 1996, a complete upset over Athens, Greece. They were at the opening ceremony. They saw Michael Johnson break the 200M world record. They have a brick in Centennial Olympic Park with their names on it (one day, I’ll find it!) for volunteering. The list is miles long of the things they attended and helped make happen.
That meant growing up, the Olympics were a special time in our household. During those 17 days, there was no limits to how much TV we would watch. I was already watching all the sports I could consume then, so getting the green light to watch unlimited sports was heaven. If there was Olympics to be watched, we saw it. If one of my siblings wanted to watch something else, tough luck, we were tuning into Bob Costas’ nightly whiparound coverage of the games.
The 2006 Torino Winter Olympics are the first one I remember. Having never seen a real mountain before, nevermind snow as an Atlanta boy, the afternoons watching ski jumping and figure skating and curling fascinated me. By the time those games rolled around, I was already a huge baseball and football fan. Realizing there were worlds of sports I hadn’t discovered was better than candy, or whatever my favorite food back then was. Probably Fruity Pebbles.
Fast forward to 2008 in Beijing, I had begun swimming and was getting into it. Michael Phelps’ 8 gold medal run could not have come a better time in my childhood. The night of the 100 Butterfly race (a top 10 sporting event ever in my book), we had a massive crowd at our house and watched the race live. It was an insane moment and is still a race 16 years later I don’t understand how Phelps pulled off.
That race was the kind of night that gets you hooked permanently into a sport. I swam through high school and for a hot second with my co-collaborater here, Jake, at Georgia Tech. I’ve been following the sport ever since and have been fortunate enough to see many Olympians swim at McCauley Aquatic (Ledecky, Weir, Dressel, and Adrian to name a few). It also permanently hooked me into the Olympics.
No other event on the planet can do what the Olympics does: assembling the best athletes in the world in every basic discipline. Is it perfect? Of course not, and I’ll address that in later weeks. But, nowhere else do we see such a diverse and comprehensive collection of the best in global athletics than at the Games. Many of the athletes participating now are my age and saw those Michael Phelps races at the right time to get inspired.
The fact we have an event that opens up the world to itself in a celebratory was is magnificent. For me, this is one of the best things that has come from general globalization. Everyone knows what these events are and what it means to those participating. Sure, it might look comedic to watch a few minutes of speed walking or rhythmic gymnasics, but these athletes are in one of the most exclusive moments humankind has generated. Those that make the Olympics can forever be introduced as “first name last name, Olympian.”
That exclusivity and specialness of the games will never tire on me. Give me a 10M platform diving showdown between Japan and Italy. Where else are we going to see Fiji dominate on a global level besides rugby? I wish it happened more often and the parity was better, but when these moments arise, it’s once in a generation for some of these countries. That will never make a bad story.
What I suppose boils all of my thoughts down is that this is the global festival of sports. There is not an event that could sound any better to me. It’s incredible this event has managed to last this long over more than a century, and it can still get better.
Next week, we’ll tackle a short history of Georgia Tech athletes in the Olympics pre-2020.
Jack Purdy is a non-revenue sports writer and co-host of Scions of the Southland for From the Rumble Seat. He previously served as The Technique’s assistant sports editor before graduating Georgia Tech in 2022. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackNicolaus