The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Coleman Bandy: At the Olympics

July 31, 2012

BLOG: A memorable meeting with Matt Grevers

In front of the Today Show set, the mood was triumphant. Americans lined the front row of the queue, waiving their U.S. flags, and cheering for recent Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers. The basketball arena roared with applause close behind as Spain took the court to challenge Australia, but the atmosphere surrounding the small, circular set was celebratory, as Americans cheered for their recent champion.

I had attended a basketball game earlier in the day, watching Russia beat out China in a preliminary matchup. My happening on the Today Show set was serendipitous; I had left the arena to grab lunch, and stumbled upon the set as the show was about to begin.   Matt Grevers was talking to the members of the audience, shaking hands, and showing off his shiny new medal. As he walked toward me, my heart leapt, he shook my hand, and I got a close-up look at his prize.

It was a surreal moment, one that only the Olympics could provide. American swimmers have made quite a showing in the early rounds, with Grevers, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin all winning medals. Swimming has proved to be America’s strong suit so far in the games, and even the opportunity of meeting one of the sport’s best young athletes is a testament to the inspirational nature of the Olympic games.  

I walked to the subway from the park and pondered the moment. In front of me was a young Australian girl who was blowing up a large, kangaroo-shaped balloon.   I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the sight of this innocent child who wanted nothing more than to support her country. In the gift shop, crowds of young Brits waited in line to get their Andy Murray (Team GB tennis) posters. I could see similarities between my encounter with Matt Grevers and these children’s admiration of their home competitors; for the short while the Olympics go on, the whole world watches and chooses athletes to support.

The athletes may win the medals, but are just as “American” as the loyal fans that watch them. In this sense, the strong aura of nationalism that is so prevalent during these games can serve a genuine purpose; while athletes are put on pedestals, they are also very relatable to citizens of their home countries, as they strongly identify with their fans in terms of culture and upbringing. So, to me, my brief encounter with Grevers and his gold medal was as inspirational as any other part of my trip so far. It may be just a medal, but it represents much more.

 

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Coleman Bandy: At the Olympics
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