Opinion: Why the Olympics are so important

By Janelle Harb


By now, the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea have come and gone. There were historic wins, historic losses, and hundreds of medals served to deserving athletes.

As a fan of figure skating, I look forward to the Winter Olympics more so than its Summer counterpart. That’s not to say that one matters more than the other in terms of importance, but the Winter Olympics have had much more impact and meaning in my own personal life.  

While watching the Olympics, you share in the triumphs of those representing your country, like three-time Olympic gold medalist snowboarder, Shaun White, achieving a new high score in the men’s halfpipe event, or figure skater Nathan Chen, making history by landing five quadruple jumps in a single program at the Olympics.

But not only do you rejoice in the triumphs of your fellow Americans, you also become awestruck by the talent that is shared by athletes around the globe. An example being Japanese figure skater, Yuzuru Hanyu, defending his first place win in Sochi in men’s single skating with another gold medal in PyeongChang, despite competing on an injured leg.

Keep in mind: These athletes have dedicated their entire lives to their sport and how short of a window these athletes physically have to be able to compete in the Olympic Games.

In addition to these incredible displays of athleticism, the Olympics are truly about celebrating the unity that competition can provide between nations.

Take a moment and think – how incredible is it that so many different nations come together to compete against one another in sport? The mere thought of this fills me with so much awe. If these countries, whose battles and disagreements have filled history books, can come together and compete against one another in friendly competition, can’t we, as regular people, learn to put our differences aside and get along with one another, too?

The display of unity amongst nations was most evident in the shocking decision for North and South Korea to march together under one flag during the Opening Ceremony of this year’s Games. The nations also agreed to form a joint North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team – marking the first time still-warring countries have competed together in an Olympic event. This was a diplomatic breakthrough for these two fiercely divided countries that are formally at war.

Although at its core, this was more than likely a calculated way of ensuring peace during the Games, so that no harm would come to athletes or spectators throughout its course on behalf of North Korea. Regardless, it sent a powerful message and image to the world.

Seeing these two opposing countries march together was a moment that I will never forget, and surely one that will go down in history books. I’ll always remember watching the commentators on TV, as they stared, speechless at this show of unity. They too were struck at by this powerful decision and what it could mean for the rest of the world and the potential reunification of Korea.  

As the threat of nuclear war reaches an all-time high, this scene held particular meaning, and made for another reason as to why this Games in particular was so special. This also shows the significant power and influence that the Olympic Games can have in world politics and diplomacy.

During the last Winter Olympics, which took place in Sochi, Russia in 2014, I was a senior in high school. Now, for the 2018 Olympics that just passed, I am a senior in college.

I’m grateful that the Olympics have fallen between these pivotal four years in my life because they’ve allowed me the perfect interval of time for me to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

In 2014, I recall wondering what the next four years between now and the next Winter Olympics would look like. What college will I be going to? What people will I meet? What will I learn? I was so naive, but so optimistic.

In those four years, I’ve been able to achieve so many great things (like becoming Editor-in-Chief of this fine paper!), and meet even better people that have changed my life and outlook for the better – all of which I could have never even begun to imagine for myself in 2014.

Now, without the safety net of school, I have no idea where the next four years of my life will take me. I look forward to the next Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 with so much excitement for what’s to come in the next few years, but also with the hesitancy that comes with the fear of the unknown.

I’m not quite sure where I’ll be in 2022 or what I’ll be doing, but I know that I can count on the Olympics and another opportunity to look back on my life from where I was four years ago, in 2018.

I’m lucky that I’ll be able to look back to the monumental years of 2014 and 2018 in my life that are forever marked by the Olympics that coincided, and remember who I was at the time, what my fears were, and what twists and turns the future had yet to reveal.

The Olympics are a time where we can reflect on how far we’ve come as a world and as an individual. They are not only an opportunity to see outstanding athletic accomplishment and unity among nations, but also a chance to evaluate and reflect on your own life every two or four years.

So next time you’re watching the Olympics, take a moment to reflect on where you were, what you were doing, and who you were the last time they occurred. Be proud of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown as a person. I know I will be.



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