When it comes to the Summer Olympics, I’m with Chauncey Gardiner–“I like to watch.” I don’t know or care much about individual athletes or teams or events. I ran long-distance in high school because I liked to run–the whole race thing was kind of distracting. And I no longer keep up with any professional or amateur teams. If I’m a fan of anything, it’s spectacle. And nothing provides it better than the Olympic games.
This time round, I’ve watched much less of the games on TV–sorry NBC. They have interviewers and color commentators and analysts and experts and box charts and schedules and way too many commercials. It all gets in the way of watching people do amazing things with their bodies.
What I’ve been doing instead is to follow the Flickr photo feed posted by amateur photographers at the games from all over the world. They often don’t identify their subjects, or the events, or even the day. Each morning I’ve been picking a dozen or so images that I like best, and have shipped them over to NCPR’s Olympics page. I have no idea whether I am looking at gold medalists or just another young talent. And I don’t care.
Nothing is more interesting to watch than people, and people are at their most interesting when fiercely focused on their passions. Who is going to decide whether to watch the next Olympiad based on their country’s medal count this time round? It will be some image burned into the brain that makes them come back: of effort, of grace, of strength, of concentration, of joy.