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The greatest athletic event man will ever see is back. Since the modern Olympics were re-instituted in 1894, the United States of America has absolutely destroyed the globe in competition. Coming in with 2,297 medals, The States have nearly twice the number of medals as any other nation. With the opening ceremonies fast approaching (Friday, the 27th, 7:30PM ET), it’s time for everyone to turn into patriots and cheer on the continuing dominance of the red, white, and blue.
The Olympics are more than athletic competition. This is the collection of the greatest athletes the entire world has to offer. It’s a time to showcase national pride, athletic ability, and most importantly, to send a message to other countries. Some of these events are heated reflections of real life international relations. In the height of the Cold War, for example, the US-Soviet Union matches meant much more than sport, and left a deep mark on both sides for better or worse.
In the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, the Soviet Union and the United States faced off in the Gold Medal game for basketball. This was before professional athletes were allowed to play basketball in the Olympics, and while Soviet athletes were juiced out of their minds (and had been since the early ’50s). The Soviets historically had America’s number in Olympic basketball competition, but this year was different. The US team was strong and finally was able to compete with the Reds. With three seconds left and the US team leading the Soviets by one point, a Soviet attempt to run an inbounds play was aborted when their coaching staff interrupted game officials to argue that the team was due a timeout. Another play was run, which failed to score and sent the U.S. team into jubilant celebration over their apparent victory. But the play was ruled invalid because the game clock had not been properly reset when the ball was inbounded. The clock was reset and a third play was run, on which the USSR scored a layup to win, 51-50. As a result, the Americans refused to accept their silver medals, leaving the summer games furious. With the Cold War in full swing, the entire American population was fueled with hate and anger that was extremely intensified over a basketball game.
Moments like this in the Olympics are not rare. Everyone knows the story of the Miracle on Ice, when the 1980 Winter Olympics saw the United States defeat the juggernaut Soviet team in hockey, creating possibly the greatest Olympic victory of all time. A victory like this ignited morale and pride the country had never seen. After years of losing to the enemy, America was finally emerging as an athletic powerhouse to match its prestige as the leader of the world. Today, the victories pile up for the US, something which many simply take for granted. Sure, there are conflicts with the Middle East and Asia, but many people forget that not too long ago, the US wasn’t as dominant as it is today and faced real global struggles.
In the 1988 Summer Olympics, the biggest sports story of the year came from Canadian Sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for a banned substance. This issue was so important because Lewis beat out Carl Lewis, the American hero. Lewis was awarded the gold, but not without support of millions of angry Americans. Today, if a similar scenario were to occur, twitter would likely erupt and show the plight of some upset citizens. In 1988, though, national pride was offended and the entire country stood up to support Lewis and America.
With the Summer Olympics already in swing (group stage play for soccer has already begun), no one should lose pride or take these games lightly. These are fellow Americans that devote their lives to representing our great nation. When watching this edition of the Summer Olympics, never forget the pride, passion, and loyalty every American should have for their athletes.
Follow me on Twitter @JimDugganTFM