For me, it all began with the Seoul Olympics of 1988. I was old enough to watch and understand it, and I was very fascinated by it. I would come back from school and sit hooked to the television, forgetting even to go out and play. I watched with a sense of horror as Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal, I watched with glee as Steffi Graf won the Gold Medal, I wanted to paint my nails and grow my hair like FloJo, I watched with bated breath as Greg Louganis hit his head against the spring board.... I remember so many things from that first Olympics. I can even remember the pictures used to represent each event. That set the stage for my love affair with the Olympics.
During our crazy days of trying to be Nadia Comaneci and Jesse Owens, I was quite sure that one day I would represent India at the Olympics. I didn't know in what sport, but I would. As the years passed, of course, my dream came down to just wanting to watch the Olympics some day. [That hasn't happened either... yet.]
The 1992 Barcelona Olympics did everything to fuel my fascination. I cut out the event schedule from the newspaper and pasted it on the back of my bedroom door, and everyday I would check the list to see if any of my favourite events were on, and I would be sure to watch it. The events would go on late into the night due to the time difference, but it would hardly deter me. At that time, it was fashionable to say that you had a crush on one of the Olympic athletes. (though I don't think we called it "crush") And I had chosen Vitaly Scherbo, the gymnast, who won Gold after Gold. I can still see quite clearly in my mind's eye, Scherbo's performance on the rings.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics was marked by the fact that we got a new (colour) television set just in time for the Opening Ceremony (calling the store and shouting at them because they hadn't delivered it yet, and the ceremony was to be telecast the next morning). The events, of course, only started in the evening for us, and so I had to be content with the highlights.
The 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics were nearly non-existent to me. I don't remember why I didn't watch the Sydney Olympics (most probably exams or some such thing), but I was in Mumbai during the Athens Olympics, without easy access to television. So I just read the reports in the newspapers, if I could get hold of one. It was that bad.
But the Beijing Olympics has been an unexpected party for me. For one, I am not going out to work, and so I can watch television all the time. Second, I do not even have school/college/studies. I do have some work that I have to do, but it is something I can do with the television set on. Third, I am in Mysore right now, with a bunch of people, all of them who are crazy about the Olympics, and watching with them all is even more fun. Fourth, the Olympics being held in China, the time difference is hardly anything, and I can watch all the events live, right from morning till night, without having to wait for the highlights. What fun, I tell you!
I like watching the events, yes, but do you know what I like better than that? To feel the palpable tension of the final moments in each event, to watch the athletes react after winning. To watch their faces as they climb the podium to receive their medals. To watch them fight to hold back tears as the flags of their countries go up, with their national anthems in the background. To feel their joy, to revel in their excitement. To live their moments in proxy.
But in my eyes, every Olympian is a winner. You just cannot belittle the years of hard work and sweat and dedication, that enables them to participate in this magnificent show. It is almost unfair to crown one person the winner.
But whatever it is, I love the Olympics.