Talk of the 2012 Olympics is everywhere, and arguably more so than any of the games before it. While it could be the rampant use of technology and social media, I think there’s also another reason. The 2012 Summer Olympics comes on the heels of the European Debt Crisis, the crisis in Syria, and the recent mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. With such dark events dominating the headlines, I think this year’s Olympic Games is like a gulp of fresh air and good feeling for a world suffocating on bad news.
People have been Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging about the Olympics almost nonstop. Some have gotten a little carried away, but overall, people sound genuinely excited. Rarely does a single event elicit so much enthusiasm and support from millions of people across the world. This past weekend alone, a press release from TVbytheNumbers.com said the 2012 London Games received an average viewership of 35.8 Million in the U.S., making it the most viewed first weekend of any summer Olympics in history. There have also been over 18 million Olympic related Tweets on Twitter since the opening ceremony on Friday.
But besides the numbers, I think people are more tuned in to watch something great happen. When you see a world record being broken, or a gymnast perform a near-perfect vault, you feel a little awestruck, no matter what nation your loyalty is bound. And people need awestruck. When I saw McKayla Maroney’s stand-out vault a few nights ago, my mouth literally fell open. I was seeing all of her talent, hard work and probable struggle culminate into one incredible athletic feat. I felt part of something big too. It made my 23 year old self want to cartwheel down the hall like I was 8 years old, watching the Olympics for the first time. But I could also feel the pain of the Russians, as they slipped from bidding for Gold, to accepting Silver, in the women’s team all-around. I felt for all of these athletes, Gold or Silver, and I think that’s what’s unifying about the Olympics.
Most people want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and I think the Olympics does just that. We need this sort of reminder that our fellow humans are still doing great things, that things aren’t always so bad. We want to be inspired again, and we want to believe that we can still achieve our own sense of personal greatness too.