The Importance of the Olympics

Published on November 29th, 2015

In August 2016, 28 sports will be highlighted at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Many we rarely see but every four years. One we are quite familiar with… sailing. Some feel the Olympic movement has moved away from them, or from the sailing they know. For those, Stuart Paine provides this perspective…

I am a strong Olympic supporter, but not just for sailing. Back in my day, a day quite long past, I pursued an Olympic berth in my sport of swimming because its attainment was the pinnacle of excellence (unfortunately I was not that excellent). Individuals in track, bobsledding, archery, biathlon, judo, field hockey, and a wide array of other sports pursue the same dream and the same goal. They seek to compete in the field of play where greatness is achieved among the very best their field of endeavor.

There are few indeed who do not have a respectful intake of breath when someone is introduced as an Olympic medalist, irrespective of the sport. Being an Olympian conveys that the athlete has sacrificed and achieved at the very highest levels. Deep in our hearts there are few of us who has not longed to be the one on the podium hearing our national anthem.

The Olympics show of greatness still exists, and it inspires us, from the six year old in their Sabot or Opti to those of us quite a bit older who wistfully long for that opportunity of greatness we missed in our youth, but continue to strive for as we cast off for a weekend sail, or race. The Olympics are important because they are in fact an expression of the best of us, all of us.

The great danger in the strictly pragmatic ‘how does this serve me’ view of sailing is that it ignores the larger values. Few would say our investment in the space program was not worth the final result of the moon landings. That was funded by the nation. Few got to go, but we all were proud and enriched because some of us, while representing all of us, achieved greatness. So it is with the Olympics, we watch our athletes perform and we feel that they are an extension of ourselves. And they are…it was our soil that nurtured them.

In other counties, the value of the Olympic effort is recognized to the degree that their athletes are government supported. Not so in the USA. Our national competitors must generate their own funding. A part of that funding may come from performance-based grants from the US Sailing Olympic Program. That grant money is generated from sponsorships and private donations alone.

Why would you sacrifice the wide-eyed stare of admiration the young Opti or Sabot sailor has toward their Olympic hero as they pledge that one day, with hard work and dedication, they too will stand tall and hear the national anthem played for them and their country? It is the dream and the commitment to the attainment of excellence we all shared while we were young. It is the pride and appreciation we feel as one of our own, while representing us, achieves greatness. It costs us very little, and the gain is immense.

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