I'm ready for the Olympic Games, ready to watch the best athletes in the world giving it all they have. I'm ready to be inspired.
After a long Republican presidential primary soap opera, continuing mediocre economic news, ongoing information on the Greek crisis, the current silliness of the presidential campaign quips of the day, and last week's tragedy in Aurora, Colo., Americans are in desperate need of inspiration.
Thank goodness it's time for the Olympic Games.
The ancient Olympic Games, held in Athens, Greece, were held from approximately 776 B.C. to 400 A.D. During the games, there would be a truce between warring parties and any free man could compete in the competition of his choice. Events then were focused on physical prowess and fighting skills. As the Roman Empire grew in power and influence, the Olympic Games ceased.
For centuries, the world went without a global athletic competition.
In the late 1800s, Pierre de Coubertin began to focus on the importance of athleticism in education. As a young man in France during the Franco-Prussian war, Coubertin blamed the defeat of the French on their lack of physical prowess. Noting during a visit to England that "organized sport can create moral and social strength," Coubertin was a champion of incorporating physical education in schools. This passion led him to champion the creation of the modern Olympic Games.
Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, and the first modern Olympic Games were held in the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece, in 1896. At that time, 241 athletes from 14 nations participated in 43 events. At this year's summer Olympic Games, in London, England, more than 10,000 athletes will participate from 204 National Olympic Committees.
More than 6 billion people will watch the opening ceremony via broadcast. It will truly be a worldwide event.
The Olympics represent the best in athletics, but it is the stories of the athletes that attract us: those who have overcome obstacles, stayed focused, persevered and won. Even those who don't win -- but who give their performance their all -- capture our hearts.
They represent to those of us who are average, the ability to be more -- to do more -- and they give us hope that, one day, we, too, might give something our all.
Coubertin understood that the Olympics, like life, are about more than winning. "The important thing in life is not victory, but the fight; the main thing is not to have won," said Coubertin, "but to have fought well."
My first memories of the Olympic Games are dominated by Nadia Comaneci, who during the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, earned the score of 10. It was the first time that a perfect score had been earned in gymnastics. Nadia then went on and earned six additional 10s during the Olympics. She was 14 at the time, just 5 years older than I, petite, determined and focused. I remember the huge grin on her face every time she finished a routine.
In 1980, the American men's hockey team captured our nation's hearts with the defeat of the heavily favored Soviet Union team on the way to the finals. At my house, we watched the game as a family, cheering wildly at the end when the Americans won what came to be known as the "miracle on ice."
In 2004, swimmer Michael Phelps captured Americans' hearts and hopes, winning six gold medals and two bronze medals. He followed up in 2008 with a record-breaking eight gold medals noting, "records are always made to be broken ... anybody can do anything that they set their mind to."
This morning, I woke before dawn to run/ walk 4 miles with Midnight, my black lab. I wanted to stay in bed for a bit more sleep, but knew that we both needed to get up and get out. It does not compare with the training, the sacrifice of the Olympic athletes, nor does my performance, but with a busy life as a wife, mother and writer, it's the best I can do with what I have.
"When we do the best we can," said Helen Keller, "we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another."
I'm looking forward to being inspired by the Olympic Games. Inspired to do the best that I can -- and watching for whatever miracle might be around the corner.