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Lane: The Jingo Olympics

BY JOE LANE | FEBRUARY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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One of my fondest, albeit strangest, memories of my time at Iowa thus far occurred late in the evening following this year’s Iowa-Wisconsin football game. I was enjoying my Panchero’s burrito with my buddies amid the crowd of heavily intoxicated individuals when I heard the infectious (and familiar) chant begin, “U-S-A. U-S-A. U-S-A.”

This experience is one with which I have become very familiar; students coming together to profess their love for this beautiful country of ours, as if for no reason other than the simple fact that they can.

That ferocious Iowa City patriotism will metastasize across the country as the Olympic Games open in Russia on Friday.

Ah yes, the Olympic Games. The two weeks every other year that supposedly cause people from around the world to drop their prejudices and come together to honor the spirit of competition.

Right? Well, not exactly.

Yes, of course, it is nice to see athletes from countries around the world slowly filling in the floor at the opening ceremonies as country after country presents their delegates on a global stage.

To me, however, the Olympics is not truly an opportunity for global togetherness but rather yet another outlet for myself and others like to me to beat my chest, swing my freedom around in the air, and claim U.S. dominance in yet another facet of life.

While I am fascinated with and impressed by the coming together of nations from around the world, I don’t watch the Olympics for this reason. When I watch the Olympics all I want to see is the U.S. team donning gold medals atop the platform as viewers around the world hear the “Star Spangled Banner,” ideally, for the umpteenth time that week.

Let’s be honest here. When was the last time you tossed on your favorite curler’s jersey and headed out to cheer on your hometown curling team? I could be wrong, but for most Olympic fans out there, I think I can guess your answer.

However, when the Olympics roll around each year, it doesn’t matter if you knew the name of a single athlete on a given U.S. team; a gold medal is a gold medal.

Yes, it is true that athletes from various countries pat each other on the back and congratulate one another after an honorable defeat or impressive victory, but this true spirit of the Olympics is buried beneath the cold-blooded desire to win.

Over the years, I’ve loved watching Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, and Apolo Ohno tear down the competition from around the world, but the fact of the matter is that if it weren’t for simple geography, I probably wouldn’t be so fond of these athletes.

When I watch the Olympics I cheer for the United States, not because I have a poster of the U.S. bobsled team on my wall, which I don’t, but because I’m proud to be an American.

The Olympics is an incredible event not because it fosters global relationships but because it creates a sense of pride and national identity, not only for those watching but for the athletes participating as well.

So as I watch curling, and other Olympic sports, in the wee hours of the morning, while they are played live in Russia, I won’t be hoping for international peace, but rather, I’ll be incessantly shouting the chant in my head, “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.”


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