Vai's View: The Olympics is still the greatest event, sporting or otherwise, on the planet
Charlie Riedel, AP
SOCHI, Russia — The Sochi Winter Games is the eighth Olympics I've covered. Each is unique, primarily culturally, but otherwise logistically, technically and professionally. As a journalist, very little changes.
As for preference, I'm a summer guy. I ran track in high school, and I was a teenage Golden Gloves champion. At 14, I fought as a welterweight in a national tournament that helped determine the Olympic boxing team. I was eliminated early, but the young man who won my division was four years my senior from Potomac, Md.: Sugar Ray Leonard.
As a family, we gathered around our 13-inch black-and-white Zenith with the rabbit ears antenna to watch the Olympics. We hadn't immigrated to the States in 1968, so the first one I remember was Munich 1972.
My parents cried as Jim McKay somberly broke the news of the Israeli athletes' murder by Palestinian terrorists after days of hostage negotiations. I was 10 and confused about the reasons and ignorant of the political ramifications.
At every Olympics, my thoughts are never far from those memories, and I experience firsthand the repercussions of the Munich tragedy — security of the athletes is paramount, access to them is limited and media coverage is more intense.
Security in Sochi is a bigger presence than any of the previous games, including Salt Lake City, which was a mere five months after 9/11. Political unrest in neighboring regions is testing the nerves of Russian leaders and organizers. Security is clearly heightened, but otherwise it's business as usual.
Last-minute preparations always come right down to the final hour, sometimes to the minute (work crews were still painting the stadium in Athens as fans arrived for the opening ceremony).
Regardless, despite its many flaws, the Olympics are still the greatest event on the planet — not just sports event but the greatest global event. It's bigger than the Super Bowl, World Cup, World Series or NBA Finals.
Remnants of its ancient principles are still evident as warring countries once held a truce to allow their soldier-athletes to compete in the Olympics. Sure, it's politicized, monetized and advertised up the wazoo, and the athletes are, for all intents and purposes, professionals.
But the kid in me who watched on the floor with my siblings as my parents sat on the couch is still a sucker for Olympic ideals. And its motto: Citius. Altius. Fortius.
Faster. Higher. Stronger.
Vai Sikahema is the Sports Director and News Anchor for NBC10 Philadelphia. He is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Emmy Award winner and was a member of BYU's 1984 National Championship team.
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