On Friday morning, Feb. 9, at 6 a.m. EST, the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea will officially open (the taped broadcast of the opening ceremony on NBC will be at 8 p.m. EST).
Some Georgetowners may be excited. Others very well may groan and worry. The contentious, even threatening, politics between North and South Korea the past year are (to put it nicely) disconcerting. So have been the serious cases of Olympic coach sexual harassment and prescription drug abuse that have been reported recently. So has evidence of corruption in some national and international sports associations, like bicycling, gymnastics and soccer.
Then there’s the politics and scandals before the games. Remember how former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for president in 2012, stepped in to save the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City? In 1984, I was a director of National Olympic Committee services for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. We suffered through the boycott of the Soviet Union teams and the outrage of the Greeks when they learned we were selling every mile that volunteers carried the torch across the country.
Almost until the games opened in L.A., “Angelians” were hostile about hosting the Olympics, which they believed would further jam their already horrendous traffic situation. South Koreans felt the same way in 1988 (both settled the situation by imposing enforced restrictions on driving during the games).
But tensions inevitably rise as the opening ceremony approaches. No matter how ready or not the sports venues, transportation, hospitality and dozens of other elements are, there is no postponing the opening date. What’s done is done. Everyone works long hours and there is urgency and stress about everything.
And then … magic happens! The athletes arrive. And we all fall in love.
They are the most beautiful young people in the world: dedicated, focused, trained athletes who have devoted their lives to the sport they love and what they can achieve in it. They live the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (swifter, higher, stronger). They compete with each other equally — their countrymen and all the athletes in their sport from around the world. They are as awestruck as anyone to see what can happen when once every four years they and their fellow athletes push themselves to the limit to record the best the human body can do.
All other problems are diminished. We cheer. We cry. We are thrilled. The Olympic athletes bring love of humankind.