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5 reasons why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world

Olympic banners greatest sporting event

“I enjoyed seeing Mr. Bean, James Bond, Paul McCartney, and the Queen at the Olympics.”

Those are words I never thought I would say.  Yet the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics had me thinking just that.

Why do I love that statement?  It shows us what the Olympics can do.

Last night, British culture was proudly on display for everyone to see.  From comedy and legendary film characters to the best of British music and royalty, we got a glimpse of Britain and what these games are about.

As an American who loves sports, there is no doubt I love the athletic competition.  American athletes are some of the best in the world.  However, the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics reminded us why these games matter and why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world.

Fans, athletes, and dignitaries stood shoulder to shoulder inside that stadium.  Cultures collided in unity and peace.  Joy and happiness filled the hearts of athletes and fans.  People from around the world joined together on one stage where the color of skin, religion, or politics didn’t matter.

This is what the world should look like every day.  This is the beauty of culture and travel in all of its glory.  This is why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world.

5 reasons why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world

USA Dream Team basketball Olympics greatest sporting event

The Dream Team isn't why the Olympics are the greatest sporting event

While the Olympics feature the greatest athletes in the world competing on a world stage, the Olympics show us why the greatest sporting event in the world is so much more than just the games.

1.  Culture

We are different.  We don’t believe the same things, govern the same way, or live similar lifestyles.  However, travel can change the world.  Travel can teach us to embrace our differences.

While many of these athletes train and compete, they may not have the chance to cross many borders.  From Australia to Zambia, athletes from all over the world will come together and meet people that are different from them.

India and Pakistan will compete.  Iranians and Americans will face each other.  Super powers will face the powerless.  And worlds will be turned upside down.

People may realize that we have more in common than the media or government propaganda tells us.  Maybe we are more similar than different.  And maybe we can learn to look past those differences and learn to respect and understand one another.

There’s no better place to start crossing the cultural divide than the greatest sporting event in the world – the Olympics.

2.  Inspiration

Every athlete has a story.  However, there are stories of people who have overcome adversity in life to succeed.  I’m not just talking about rising up from poverty in an inner city to become an Olympian.

I am talking real adversity.

Samia Yusuf Omar lives in Mogadishu, Somalia in a two bedroom house with seven family members.  She competed in the women’s 200M race in the 2008 Olympics.  She finished last – by a lot.  Yet the crowd roared and cheered as one of Somalia’s two Olympians sprinted towards the finish line.

With her country embroiled in a war, Samia does what she can to find food each day.  While other athletes were concerned about medals, she just wanted to finish the race.

All of us have a race to run.  Regardless of our circumstances, ours is probably a much easier one to run than Samia’s.

That’s one of many inspirational stories from athletes around the world.  If you want a tug on your heart strings, forget the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Stay tuned for the 2012 Paralympics Games.

For heartwarming stories and tears, this may top the regular Olympics as to greatest sporting event in the world.

3.  Unity

Athletes from various nations will compete against each other.  Many of these athletes will never cross paths again.  They are from different countries. Some of these nations are enemies.   Despite religious, political, and moral differences, these athletes will compete on the same stage.

Afghanistan’s Tahmina Kohistani will compete as a runner in the women’s 100M race.  She will wear a headscarf, long trousers, and long sleeves in keeping with her Muslim faith.  Yet she will be running against Christians and people with beliefs very different than her own.

She is proud to be a part of the Olympics and hopes it inspires women in her own country.  While American and British soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan, they will all be competing against one another in peace.

When people come together on this stage despite our cultural, political, and religious differences, it gives us hope.

4.  Generosity

Olympic medals greatest sporting event

The athletes play for medals but this doesn't make it the greatest sporting event

While the athletes are here to win, they also bond with one another.  These Olympics games give people an opportunity to meet others from other walks of life.

These athletes have trained their whole lives for this.  Many find something much more important at these Olympic games.  Yet it’s more than just the athletes who are kind.

In Bury St Edminds, the Rwanda athletes trained for the Olympics.  From a war torn country to a clash of cultures, the lives of these athletes are very different than the people in this British town in Suffolk.

However, the people embraced them.

People lined the streets to cheer as Rwanda’s athletes ran.  Locals acted as pacemakers and joined the athletes on their run.  Students created a mural welcoming Rwanda’s five Olympic athletes.  The people threw a 16th birthday party for Rwanda’s Alphasine Agahozo.

In a country torn apart by war and genocide, the kindness of a British village has made these athletes smile.

5.  Life lessons

Yes, there is a lot of sex in the Olympic Athlete village.  The International Olympic Committee may be more interested in money and corporate sponsorships than the games.  Politics and scandal haven’t escaped the Olympic spotlight.  And protests and bad behavior will rear their ugly heads at the Olympic games.

However, there are also some important life lessons that can be learned from watching the Olympics.  Play by the rules, persevere, treat others with respect and kindness, and work hard to be the best you can be.

Sometimes winning a medal isn’t what matters.  Most athletes come here and never win.  Yet there is something great about being an Olympian.

These Olympic games can teach us some great life lessons that may change the way we live, interact with others, and inspire our kids to become better people.

The Olympic Games – A world of hope

Culture travel Olympics greatest sporting event

Breaking down cultural barriers - this is what matters

Generosity, inspiration, culture, character, and unity – there are no better building blocks to giving our world hope than this.  If these same traits we see in the Olympic games were displayed every day, our world could live in peace.

While the World Cup may be the biggest sporting event in the world, the greatest sporting event is the Olympics.  No other event will see people from so many countries come together, put aside their differences, learn more about each other, and compete with respect and unity.

Whether people love to travel or enjoy cheering on life from home, the Olympics are an opportunity to learn about others, be inspired, and realize that the world isn’t so bad when we come together with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.

The greatest sporting event in the world gives us hope that we can be One.

If you love sports, culture, and travel, join me on the road for my 2012 College Football Travel Tour.

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  1. Steve Whitty says:

    This is so true. As a sports fan it will be all that I’ll watch for the next two weeks. The Olympic games reminds us that we can live and play together regardless of any differences. I am proud to be British at this moment.

    • The Olympics have been great. I love the competition. There have been some fantastic moments. There has also been poor sportsmanship as well. Hopefully, the good memories and stories will be the things we remember as the Olympics finish up this week.

  2. The Olympics are my favorite! So many interesting stories. So inspirational. Competition and unity … I could go on and on.

    I am almost re-thinking my decision to not have television, so I can see more of the stories and the events.

    • Honestly, I haven’t watched as much of the Olympics as I thought I would. I love following the results and reading the stories online. You can still read a lot of the heart warming stories and see the videos online.

  3. I missed seeing Paul McCartney! But I LOVED seeing Daniel Craig with the Queen. That was one cool moment. That woman knows how to stay relevant!

    I agree, Jeremy. Sports does unite us whatever our political or religious beliefs and that’s why the Olympics will always hold our interest. I’m a tad bit jealous of my friends who’re gone.

    • I saw Paul McCartney and missed Daniel Craig with the Queen. I need to go back and find that video.

      Seeing the unity and pride of the athletes has been fun to watch. Watching the Olympics has made me proud to be a citizen of the world.

  4. I enjoy the Olympics. It is the only time you can watch sports like water polo, gymnastics, and track and field. These events are on at other times, but they are hard to watch unless an Olympic medal is on the line.

    • My wife actually played water polo and was a gymnast. I didn’t get to see her perform but having that connection makes me interested in these sports during the games. Should be a fun last few days to close out the Olympics.

  5. Edna says:

    Great post! I’ve always especially loved it for the unity. I’m currently covering my first Olympics and realized that it’s not just the athletes coming together from all over the world, it’s everyone, from volunteers to media. Pretty great to see people from all nations working together to provide a great Games to both the athletes and the world.

    • What an fantastic opportunity to cover the Olympics. So glad to hear that the unity is felt among volunteers and spectators as well. I wish that sentiment was the same all year among nations and people. Wish our leaders could appreciate the spirit of the Olympics as well.

  6. Laurel says:

    I really like your take on the Olympics. I’ve barely been following them this summer, but after reading this, will start taking more interest. For some reason, most of the Germans I know have taken little interest, so maybe that’s why I’m less enthusiastic about the Olympics than normal.

    • Thanks Luarel. Have you had a chance to watch any of the Olympics? That soccer/football match between the US and Canadian women was awesome! If that doesn’t get you excited about the games, nothing will. Closest we may ever get to animosity between the US and Canada! :)

  7. Laurence says:

    Just as I was starting to think the world might forget that Mr. Bean was the main cultural export of the UK, the Olympics go and re-cement him as the main topic of conversation around the world. In all seriousness though, this was an absolutely fabulous opening ceremony. I entirely expected it to be dire (it’s the Brit in me) and was totally blown away. Loved it.

    • I love Mr Bean!! I watch a lot of British television shows. Just finished watching the final season of Spooks. I also watch a lot of older British comedies as well. Britain was well represented in the opening ceremonies. Now let’s see what they do during the closing ceremony.

  8. Rease says:

    I completely agree! I am a complete Olympics fanatic for many reasons and you hit on a lot of them. It i SO beautiful and inspiring.

    • Have you been watching a lot of the Olympics? Any favorite event so far? That women’s soccer match between the US and Canada was pretty awesome!

      • Rease says:

        Um Of COURSE I have been watching. My boyfriend is awaiting the end of the Olympics so he can have his girlfriend back haha. I record all the events on DVR and watch as many as I can, but I never miss primetime.

        I saw that USA vs Canada game and it was CRAZY! That last goal by the US was incredible.

        My favorite event is gymnastics. I lost my mind when Gabby Douglas got all around gold. I’m excited to watch beam finals tonight!

        I’m also really into swimming. And beach volleyball. Sometimes track. It’d be easier to tell you what sports I didn’t watch!

        • That’s awesome – a girl who like sports so much that her boyfriend is jealous! I have to admit I haven’t watched a lot of it on TV but I do follow it online. I guess I am just too busy lately and after knowing the results, it’s hard to watch.

          I played baseball and beach volleyball in high school. I miss my athletic days. Sometimes it’s fun to live vicariously through these athletes and just enjoy their abilities and accomplishments.

          Even though I am missing a lot of these events on TV, I will get my fill of sports this Fall :)

  9. So glad to be back home to watch the last few days of the Olympics. Have hated missing it all while we have been travelling!

  10. Really enjoying the 2012 Olympics!

    Travel and Escape has a writer in London covering the events. I’d much rather following the Olympics through social media and travel bloggers, rather than listen to commentators on tv.

    It’s been great to follow on T+E: http://www.travelandescape.ca/tag/olympics-in-london/

    • I’ve hardly watched the events on TV. I guess that’s because I am at work when all the events are going on and I refuse to watch the tape delayed stuff on TV. However, I still loving following the results and reading the stories.

      I will watch the Closing Ceremony though – I’ve already read about it but haven’t had a chance to watch it yet :)

  11. I was reading in an Op Ed the other day how the Olympics is the only International body that still enjoys Global support from all its signatories not unlike the UN, IMF, NATO and those other coalitions. Definitely speaks to the glue that is Sport.

    I feel the World Cup is equally spectacular but nothing beats the Olympics for its broad appeal.

    • I love the World Cup as well. I am a huge soccer/football fan. I cried when Chelsea won the Champions League this past season. I follow the game and know it well. However, there is FAR too much violence and hate in the passion of the fans. There is an ugly side to the game that I hate seeing it.

      You don’t see this with the Olympics. Lots of unity and camaraderie at the Olympics with some inspiring stories. Most of the athletes aren’t rich but do it for the love of their sport and country.

  12. I LOVE the Olympics too. It’s funny since I am actually not a big sports fan at all. But during the Olympics I can’t get enough. I’d estimate that I’ve watched at least 3 hours a day for the past two weeks. I can’t wait till Rio—I’m even considering going!

    • Honestly, I haven’t watched much of it at all because I’ve followed online. I hate watching most of these events after the results and don’t like the way NBC has handled. I might have enjoyed this watching them in another country. Then again, I could have watched them live there as opposed to being stuck at work :)

  13. Simon says:

    Aw, It’s so sad they’re over. I always think the closing ceremony is like saying goodbye to a good mate for another four years!

    • That was a very good closing ceremony as well. However, here in the US, NBC screwed it up as usual but cutting out part of the ceremony and playing it later so they could show a “new TV show” for the Fall.

      However, that speaks nothing to the Olympics. Great examples of character, sportsmanship, unity, and culture throughout the Olympics.

  14. My favorite tournament and one I consider THE sporting event is the World Cup. Perhaps it’s because soccer/football has a nearly-religious status in many countries and it’s such a hugely anticipated event. That being said, you make some great points about the Olympics!

    When I was little, I watched everything – Barcelona, Atlanta, you name it – and loved all the athletes parading during the opening ceremony. It was wonderful to see all the different outfits that were much more than just fabric, but a representation of the countries’ values, national colors and pride. Great memories… :)

    • Pola, I am actually a HUGE soccer/football fan. I watch the EPL all year long. I cried when Chelsea won the Champions League. I watched the Euros, I follow all the big leagues in Europe, and keep up with the news. I love the game and think the World Cup is a fantastic competition and very exciting.

      However, this is where I would disagree with you about it being the best sporting event. Not every country is able to participate like the Olympics so this limits the number of countries participating. Secondly and saddest of all is the fanaticism/behavior of fans. You saw it in the Euros this year with the clash of Poles and Russians. I would never call the World Cup or the world of football/soccer a unifying event. There is poor sportsmanship and horrible fan behavior that often results in clashes.

      While I love the game, I can’t say it comes anywhere close to the Olympics in terms of unity, sportsmanship, peace, and culture. As a sport, I love the game and enjoy it more than most of the events in the Olympics. As an event, it just can’t compare to the Olympics in my opinion.

      • I see your point and won’t argue. The is a lot of positive aspects of the Olympics, no denying that. I simply wrote that FOR ME the World Cup is the most important sporting event.

        Having grown up in Poland, I was upset about the whole clash with Russian fans. Not surprised, just really sad that historic issues couldn’t be put aside. However, I saw lots of footage of fans from different countries hanging out together in the streets, singing, laughing, you name it. Yes, there is hooliganism in the sport, but good things can also be found.

        Anyway, I’d love to go to the World Cup in Brazil in two years. How cool for them to host both that and the 2016 Olympics?

        • I definitely understand your side. I do love the game. I watch it all year long and keep up with it. At times, it’s my favorite sport. But in reality, it will probably always be behind college football. Quality and competition wise, I don’t think there is a better world event. However, in the Olympics, seems there is more good that comes out of it and more nations compete giving people all over the world a chance to enjoy and root for their country.

          I’ve written a series about racism in sports on my site. I’ve talked some about American sports but dealt a LOT with the hooliganism and racism that still exists today in soccer. For such a global game where these guys plays all over the world, it shocks me to still see their behavior and words and to see how a team made up of all different types of guys from all different parts of the world still has so many issues today which divide fans and the sport.

          By the way, I have a Poland World Cup jersey from 06. I will have to find a photo of it and show it to you :)

  15. Caitlyn says:

    Love it! I’m with you on this one – I love it how for two weeks every four years, the whole world stops. It’s on every TV screen, every newspaper, everything. That’s all we watch for sixteen days, unlikely events such as handball and diving, which we all become experts on straight away ;)

    • Who isn’t an expert on handball and diving? :) Actually, I think Americans could dominate this sport if they knew anything about it!

      More than anything, I love the spirit of the Olympics. Love the sporting events but it also showcases the world and brings us all together – if only for a few days.

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