Mourning the Olympics’ End

My family is in mourning. Or withdrawal. Or maybe both: After 17 days of nonstop coverage, the 2018 Winter Olympics have come to a close.

To look at the headlines, we might be one of the few families grieving the completion of this quadrennial competition. Variety reports that this year’s games in Pyeongchang were the least-viewed ever, with viewership down 7% from the 2014 Winter Olympiad in Sochi. Add that to the disappointing tally of American medals (just 23, far short of the 40 or more some prognosticators had predicted), and it might seem as if all the Olympic news this year was bad news, at least for those of us who live in the States and root for the red, white and blue.

I’m gonna argue with that assessment. For my family, at least, this year’s Olympics were the best two weeks of TV we’ve experienced since, well, probably the last Olympics.

Sure, there are a few issues to navigate, most obviously references to openly gay athletes. And a few unfortunate commercials for a couple of movies that had my daughters quickly squeezing their eyes shut.

But the vast majority of the time we spent watching the Olympics together as a family involved witnessing amazing feats of excellence on ice and in the snow. The competition between Russian figure skaters Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova was a spectacle of beauty, precision and determination for the ages. American figure skater Nathan Chen stumbled at the outset, but powerfully redeemed himself by landing a record six quads in his historic free skate.

Some Americans expected to top the podium did exactly that, like snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim. The American women’s hockey team topped archrival Canada. Other victors were unlikely champions: Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall unexpectedly taking the gold in the cross-country team sprint; the U.S. men’s curling team battling back after early losses to take the top slot, to name just two such Cinderella stories.

Diggins told, “Anytime you get to put on the relay socks it’s an honor and a privilege and you know your racing not just for yourself, your racing for your teammates and Team USA. It’s this really exciting rush of adrenalin and you just go out there and you leave everything you’ve got on the course.  There is more to it than just medals.”

Diggins’ quote illustrates a couple of the lessons that my wife, three kids and I got to discuss throughout the Olympics: teamwork. Dedication. Perseverance.

Each night’s coverage (oh, and practically nonstop viewing over the course of two weekends, too) offered a chance to emphasize what excellence and commitment look like. And, I might add, to talk about how we respond when all the excellence, commitment and effort we can bring don’t yield a medal.

My girls, for instance, were especially disheartened when some of their favorite American figure skaters took tumbles. But we watched as they got back up, stayed in the game and finished their routines with smiles that barely cloaked tears. And that determination, that grit, is what makes a true champion in life—not whether someone won a gold or not.

We even spent some time talking about what Scripture has to say about striving to win as we talked about 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown.”

All in all, I’m hard pressed to think of anything on broadcast TV that offers as much inspiration as the Olympics broadcasts do. So I’m sad to see this year’s Games conclude. But we’re already talking about and looking forward to the Summer Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo.

For my family, July 2020 can’t get here fast enough.