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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Why I’m watching the Olympics

I don’t particularly care for hockey. I have always thought skiing and snowboarding are a little overrated. The luge absolutely terrifies me. I don’t understand curling, and I have absolutely no idea what ice dancing is. But for the next two weeks, I’m going to watch every second of these sports — every second of the Olympics — that I can.

The Olympic Games amaze me. They stand as one of the oldest traditions in all of human history. They began nearly 3,000 years ago in approximately 776 BC in Olympia, Greece. They included events such as running, jumping, discus throw and boxing. From these beginnings, it has grown into the world’s largest spectacle of sport, with athletes from over 200 nations competing every other year to win gold for their country.

Though many people may claim the Summer Olympics are the more entertaining of the two games, I disagree. At the very least, the Winter Olympics have inspired two of the greatest sports films of all time. The first, “Cool Runnings,” is a hysterical 1993 movie based on the true story of the 1988 Jamaican national bobsleigh team. Though they did not win a medal (in fact, they did not complete their race), it’s a heartwarming story about an underdog team faced with adversity and their remarkable ability to overcome it. The second is one of my personal favorites — “Miracle.” It’s about the United States national ice hockey team and the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” arguably the greatest story in the history of sports. It also contains one of the most-quoted scenes in movie history: Herb Brooks’ locker-room speech to his team before the medal-round game against the Soviet Union. If you haven’t seen “Miracle,” at least watch this scene on YouTube. The speech is one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever heard in a movie.

This year’s Olympics are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea, giving them a special significance. As North Korea continued to test its nuclear missile program and tensions between it, South Korea, and the United States rose throughout 2017, there were fears the International Olympic Committee would have to choose a new location for the Games. These fears were forgotten during Friday’s opening ceremony. When North and South Korea entered the arena, they did not do so as separate nations. They did not appear as two warring states separated by half a century of bitter animosity. No, they came in together, carrying the flag of a unified Korea to the cheers of the thousands in attendance. Sure, it was only a moment. When the games conclude, I’m sure relations will return to their normally icy state. I’m sure North Korea will continue to make less-than-empty threats that endanger Koreans on both sides of the peninsula. But the Opening Ceremony proved we may one day see a united Korea. It proved it doesn’t have to be this way.

That is what’s so important about the Olympics. My patriotism isn’t going to be affected by whether or not America wins gold in the biathlon. A lot of people balk at the Games’ pageantry, circumstance and sometimes silly events (let’s be honest, most of you don’t know what ice dancing is, either). But it’s not all about the games. It’s not about the medals. During the Olympics, we get to see that the world doesn’t have to be so serious. World leaders don’t issue threats from ostentatious podiums. Nations don’t come to blows over territory or resources on the floor of the UN building. Instead, they just have races. They play ice hockey. The Olympics allow the world to have some fun. They allow countries to show the world the skills of some of the greatest athletes alive. In an increasingly disunited world, the Olympics allow us all to demonstrate that we can have unity — at least for two weeks. 

Patrick McKelvey splits his time between being a college sophomore and a grumpy old man. A New Jersey native and American Studies major, he is interested in a legal career after graduating Notre Dame. If you can’t find him at the movies, he can be reached for comment at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.