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Olympic Spirit Transcends Competition

Olympic Spirit Transcends Competition

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Published by Peter Potrebic
Sittings in the stands at an Olympic competition is a marvelous experience.
Sittings in the stands at an Olympic competition is a marvelous experience.

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Published by: Peter Potrebic on Mar 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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[This is an article I wrote for the Calistoga Tribune, it appeared in the Feb 19, 2010issue. Articles also appear at www.FanOftheGames.com]
Olympic spirit transcendscompetition
Editor’s note: Calistoga resident Peter Potrebic is on Vancouver attendingthe Winter Olympics with his family – wife Jodie and sons Jake and Casey –and is sharing their experiences with Tribune readers.
The Olympics are so very different from other worldrenowned sporting events such as the Soccer WorldCup, the Daytona 500, or the Super Bowl. Whatdifferentiates the Olympics is the diversity of experiences one can have while sitting in the stands.It is this extra dimension, beyond the action on thefield, that motivates me to encourage everyone whoenjoys watching the Olympics on TV (most Americans)to attend at least one Games in person, even if only for 3 or 4 days. Theexperiences you have cannot be replicated and they cannot happen from your livingroom. At the Olympics people are ready to both enjoy the competition and meetpeople from all over the world. I claim that folks attending other major sportingevents continue to be grounded in their normal lives and are thus less open torandom chance and new experiences.We went to our first event in Vancouver on Monday afternoon – Speed Skating,Men’s 500 meter. We had a blast. I read the NY Times coverage after the event andthey got it 100% wrong, at least in terms of the spectator mood with their dourheadline “Parade of Ice Machines Overshadows Speedskating”. No freak’in way. Idoubt any of the competitors thought that the trouble with the Zamboni’s (I’m usingZamboni as the generic name, since the failing machines were of Canadian origin,and the Zamboni is made in the U.S.A.) overshadowed either their success or failureon the ice. And the fans certainly didn’t seem to mind, sing, cheering, and talkingtheir way through the 1 hour delay. Instead of just reporting what actuallyhappened – a Gold Medal was won by a super fast South Korean, followed by aformidable pair of sprinters from Japan. That’s the real story. No Europeans or North American medalists. That’s a first, withmy research going back to 1964. That’s the Olympic story. But to some taking thestory beyond the competition, looking for a scandal, makes it more weighty. Not inmy book. The spectators certainly were not annoyed by the delay. My nature at home is suchthat a 2.3 second extra delay at a stop light can set me off. But somehow my natureFan of theGames 
at the Olympics is to make the best of any situation. My kids, slightly frustrated atthe wait asked what we could do. I suggested they consider the athletes. Our kidshad looked forward to our evening at the rink for all of 3 or 4 hours. The athletes onthe other hand had been training and dreaming of this evening for 3 or 4 years.How were they dealing with the delay? Ponder that. Some were likely well equippedto ride out this bump in the road, while others where became unsettled and forcedto look for something or someone to get their mental focus back in control. I wouldhave loved to see what was happening in those back rooms. And the spectators,well we all sang and cheered and got to know each other. Jake had his firstindependent one-on-one pin trading experience, getting it started with only a minoramount of help from his dad. He traded with Alan, a minister/lawyer/accountantfrom Houston Texas who helps run a Ministry that goes to every Olympics to spreadthe world of Jesus Christ.I met and spent a lot of time talking with a Mom and her 2 grown daughters.Corinne, one of the daughters, spent a year in high school as an exchange studentin Pula, Croatia; it was still Yugoslavia back then. She showed me how muchCroatian she remembers and talked about how much she loved her experience.Corinne and her sister, Marlene, also told me the story of how they met IvicaKostelic, a Croatian skiing star and Torino Silver medalist, the evening before at abar up in Whistler. The Mom, Nancy, also had wonderful Olympic stories to share having volunteered towork at the Torino Olympics, convincing the Italians that she knew more Italian thanshe actually did. She had a blast. Just talking to her you could sense what amarvelous and youthful experience she had, getting to hang out with youngathletes from all over the world. As Vancouver approached she decided she neededa second helping of that Olympic spirit, so she once again found herself volunteering. Talking with Nancy and her 2 lovely daughters, Marlene and Corinne,motivated me to one day experience the Olympics, not as a fan but as a volunteer. The cool volunteer clothing package alone is worth the 2 or 3 week commitment. These women were sitting in the row just in front of us. In the row behind was theUncle and Aunt of US speed skating star Fredrick Tucker, ranked 4
in the world inthe 500m. Unfortunately it wasn’t Fredrick’s day. Coming out of the first turn in thefirst race he almost fell, costing him about half a second. He couldn’t recover andfinished 12
, 53 hundredths of a second behind gold. These sprinters certainly dolive on the edge. Some non skating fans might recognize Fredrick, or even his mom,as they played a part in the brilliant marketing campaign on the Colbert Report, aComedy Central current events program. Host Stephen Colbert raised $300K fromhis Colbert nation fans to sponsor the speed skating team and later raced Fredrick’smom (on speed skates) and lost. I met the mom during the evening asking for herautograph and saying I almost didn’t recognize her out of her speed skates. Shelaughed at my jokes, even though it was shortly after her son’s stumble.

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