July 30, 2021

The “Nina Flax” Files: Things I Love About the Olympics

Earlier this week, I asked my first-grader what sport he’d want to compete in if he could be an Olympian. When he responded that he wants to do whatever earns money so that he could buy video games, I feared the Games had lost their luster. But the very next day, our faithful correspondent Nina Flax sent in her latest “list” – and it’s heartening to see that the event is still imparting plenty of inspiration and self-reflection. From Nina:

I must admit that I do not remember my first Olympics exposure as a child (though I do very fondly remember my first viewings of Cool Runnings and Miracle). A few days into the Olympics, I thought I might share some of what I love about the Olympics more generally.

1. The Games are Inspiring. Seeing the culmination of all of the hard work put in by these athletes, and the amazing display of expertise is simply inspiring. (Side note: Yes, for those of you who have read some of the previous lists, I sometimes cry because I am so inspired.)

2. They also provide a reality check. Some people are just born with natural talents. I do not feel bad that I was not able to become an Olympic figure skater, and I will not feel bad as a parent if my child does not become an Olympic volleyball player (let’s be honest, I’m 5’1” and my husband is 5’10”). (Also a side note: Yes, I will feel like a failure if my child does not love reading.)

3. I appreciate the importance of personal interests. See item 1 above. These athletes grew into their sports out of personal interest – and that interest has helped define who they are in different moments. It is also refreshing to hear the stores about athletes who take breaks because of a falling out of love, and sometimes find their way back to joy in their sports. On a more personal/achievable note, our own game during the opening ceremony was to call my dad for the entire parade of athletes. Otro Papa – have you been to this place? Otro Papa – what about this other place? (My son speaks Spanish, and when he was first starting to speak and we were explaining that his abuelo was also a father just like his Papa was a father, it stuck that my parents are “other” mom and “other” dad. We think it’s cute.) We listed every single country/territory/represented area to see how many he has visited, and then we looked up which officially recognized countries do not have representatives at the games to add those. He has been to most, and he did not start traveling until later in life. His personal passion has driven joy and years to his life. Even if you are not an Olympian, there are ways personal interests can enrich and “purpose-fy” your life. Appreciating the personal interests of others and the impact of those interests on their lives also inspires me. Which is a nice reinforcing loop.

4. I always learn something new. Like about the pictograms! I had no idea that they were first introduced when Japan hosted the Games in 1964. Genius. If you haven’t watched this part of the opening ceremony, you should (and also the drones!).

My night-time work productivity and sleep will admittedly likely decrease this week and next as I continue to watch recaps and replays. Like watching the replay of the US vs. Sweden women’s soccer game – where my son routed for Sweden because he liked the color of their shirts. Which I was okay with – because I kept pointing out how the US kept playing and trying their hardest to the very end, and how they would need to move on from this loss because they had more games to play and could not let one setback get in their way. Great don’t-give-up, learn-but-don’t-beat-yourself-up moment. Or watching the recap of the women’s gymnastics qualifiers – and appreciating that even women like Simone Biles have off days, and that does not make her any less spectacular. We are all human. I hope everyone is able to enjoy and appreciate the reasons they love the Olympics as well!

Liz Dunshee