I didn’t watch a minute of them on TV for the first time in years, so I’m not in a great position to say, and I also may be overly influenced by my dislike of the women’s soccer team, but here’s a contrarian take from Paul Mirengoff at Powerline.
Some of the greatest Olympic moments have been come-from-behind efforts by the plucky American side against communist regimes, and this year’s games were no different. On one side, you had the Chinese, resurgent with a team almost as large as that at the Beijing Games and focused on acquiring gold medals at any cost. Up until the final day, China led the way in gold by a significant margin. Their dedicated sports schools and gaming of the Olympic’s structure made a compelling case for dominance.
Opposite them, you had the U.S., beset by aging stars and injuries, both physical and mental. Baton passes were botched, and attainable gold medals were left on the track. The U.S. was drowning in silver and bronze, leading the field in the medal count, but gold was much more challenging to come by than expected. Despite it all, we won in all categories, thanks to phenomenal basketball and volleyball victories in the waning hours of the Games. It’s deeply amusing that a self-consciously individualistic nation could best a collectivist one with teamwork of all things. Freedom of association is a beautiful thing.
The curmudgeons may grumble about the Games’ many flaws, but where else can we thrash despicable geopolitical foes on their very doorstep? Long live the Olympics.
I’m going to get to Alaska in a moment, but that picture, above, is of Salzburg — about which I have a journal today. From which I have a journal? In any case, the article is here. I’ve been writing Salzburg journals — along with other journals — for about 20 years now. They’re not for everyone. But they’re for some — and it’s a pleasure to write for the some (so to speak). Today, I have observations social, political, and artistic. Plus a slate of photos, as usual.
If you’re interested in a sportscast — a podcast devoted to sports — I have one, here: with two of my regular gurus, David French and Vivek Dave. We cover the waterfront, or a good stretch of it. This includes the Olympics. Should PGA Tour stars be there? Should NBA stars? Is amateurism merely quaint? And how about the issue of transgenderism? If you have a male body — should you be competing in women’s sports? We also talk about Tom Brady, Shohei Ohtani, and other phenomena.
A week or so ago, I wrote,
All of my life, I have seen churches — church buildings — turned into something else. It is so good — so unusual, so refreshing — to see “something else” turned into a church.
I then quoted an Associated Press report, which begins,
A popular strip club that once beckoned customers off a busy highway leading into Anchorage is now a church offering salvation — instead of temptation — thanks to a daughter of a former exotic dancer.
Such “good, heartening news,” I said. A reader now writes,
Commuting to my job in Anchorage, I ride a bus past the former strip club that is now a church. The funny thing is, I didn’t know the strip club had become a church until reading about it in your Impromptus. Thanks for the local-news update! The place was a blight as a strip club and remained one as an unused building for a few years afterward.
I neglected to write you a while back, but here I am and I want to say that I enjoyed your writing about Robert Service’s poetry [here]. I didn’t know that Reagan was a fan [big-time, like most boys and young men his age]. As a kid growing up in Alaska with a grandfather and great-uncles who prospected and mined gold and silver, I enjoyed Service’s writings, and so does our whole family. I have visited the cabin where Service lived and worked in Dawson City. Small and cozy.
A destination to remember, that cabin.
The 2020 Olympic Games have now concluded — in August 2021. After being delayed an entire year, they were, in fact, ultimately held in Japan. The United States came out ahead, both in the gold-medal count and far and away in the number of gold medals. Whether you care about the Olympics or don’t (paging Kyle Smith), America’s victory is worth celebrating.
These games took a circuitous path to completion. The coronavirus continued its reign of uncertainty, first forcing the games out of their planned timetable, then depriving events of spectators. This undoubtedly required adjustments from first-time and veteran competitors alike, in terms of altering training schedules, dealing with new competition environments, and more. The triumphs secured in spite of these obstacles earn a heightened significance in such circumstances.
At times, the domestic discussion of happenings at the games made it appear as though America’s fortunes had plunged into doubt. You can find National Review‘s coverage of the games here, including all of the various takes on Simon Biles’s temporary withdrawing of herself from competition. It is not exactly unusual for the Olympics to take on a political character, in terms of American politics as well as international relations. Past Olympics have seen starker examples in both domestic and foreign dimensions. But the modern media environment can seem to make things more charged.
But whatever your thoughts on these matters, most American athletes are, it turns out, proud to represent their nation in the games. There is certainly something worthwhile, in the abstract, about a venue to determine who in the world is the best at a given athletic pursuit. Yet even though John Lennon’s insipid anthem was, regretfully, present at the opening ceremonies, and even though the games are meant as a venue for international comity, let’s be real: The athletes at these contests represent their respective nations’, and compete on behalf of the same. They are in it for themselves, yes, at least in part. The pursuit of individual glory must be present, to some degree. But there is more to the Olympics than that.
It is quite easy for athletes and spectators alike to get caught up in the Olympics while they are under way. But there is always an after. After some Olympics, venues, built for the one-time affair in the host nation, are abandoned, never to be used again, ghostly reminders of what was. (Sometimes, they can even turn ghastly; the podium of 1984’s Sarajevo Winter Games was later used as a staging ground for executions.) But it’s the athletes who make the games, and our thoughts turn more naturally to them. Some made their debuts in Tokyo this year, experiencing for the first time the thrill of that unique competition. Others were returning. And others were at their last Olympics, whether they knew it or not.
All will certainly be taking some measure of well-deserved race after the games. After the rush of it all, it is, for many, quite the comedown for it to be suddenly all over, for the thing to which all of one’s efforts were geared for years to be at an abrupt end. Post-Olympic depression is real, and it’s understandable even to non-Olympians: Surely many of us have endured a long, intensive labor and seemed adrift upon its completion. Many of these competitors will continue on after this, taking part in the various other contests that occur between games. For whether stung by failure or assuaged by victory, there is something in the human spirit that pushes them onward, toward some ineffable goal. In this, again, these competitors, trained to the peak of their given pursuits, have something in common with us mere mortals.
Something to remember, perhaps, as we await 2024.