by Matt Benoit
I’ve been watching my fair share of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage lately. The 21st Winter Olympiad, of course, is going on just north of us in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Winter Games have always been my favorite, more so than the Summer Games.
I think the reason is the great sense of speed and allure of potential danger that many of its events contain—from speed skating to downhill skiing to bobsled—there is a certain fascination with the spectacle of these events, almost removing some of them from the notion of “game” territory.
That potential danger can be very real, as evidenced by the death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed during a training run on Feb. 12 when he flew off his sled and into an unprotected metal pole at nearly 90 mph.
I realize that some people reading this may not care about the Olympics; there are many people I know who are not much into sports at all. But the Olympics represent more than just a medal count or a series of final scores and statistics—they represent the stories of many people and cultures.
These are stories both heartbreaking and uplifting. They are people’s dreams, and nightmares, realized; their hard work and soft emotion. Their perseverance and dedication.
So many times the Olympics have taken on a greater significance in the light of world events—“The Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid in 1980, where the US men’s hockey team defeated the USSR in the midst of the Cold War; the horrible tragedy of the 1972 Munich Games, where Palestinian terrorists took most of the Israeli team hostage and killed them.
The Olympics can help us, as human beings, to recognize our differences and try to—at least temporarily—put them aside, and instead embrace our commonality through the spirit and intensity of competitive sport. Perhaps nowhere else is that tired but true phrase, “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat,” more relevant.
The Games prove that, sometimes, barriers are not meant to hold back, but rather to be broken through (not necessarily literally, mind you; but this too, can happen at the Olympics) in the hopes of greater achievement.
The dreams of the many Olympic athletes remind and inspire me to continue to pursue my dreams, and I suggest you aspire to do the same. Whatever those dreams are, don’t give up on them. Be realistic, but don’t give up. Be not pessimistic, but persistent. Life doesn’t owe you anything, and there are no guarantees, but if you really want something, the effort is always worth it, win or lose.
If you let your dreams slip away, you may regret it. I’ve always felt that the formula for regret is a simple one: missed opportunity plus time equals regret. And that’s one equation that no one wants to be writing.