Amy Roberts: A gold medal in irony
There’s something special about the Olympic Games. And when you live in Park City, there’s something extra special about them. Our pride and excitement are rightfully elevated. We’re more than a former Olympic venue, we are the birthplace of Olympians and here, Olympic dreams are a birthright.
Like many others, I’ve spent the last week watching the Games, feeling slightly superior each time an announcer says, “… from Park City, Utah.” I chuckle when I hear tourists on a chair lift or on the bus commenting on the competitions.
“How do four people fit in that tiny sled?”
“Why did that skier have an assault rifle?”
“Did you know you can get a gold medal for sweeping with broom?”
I forget what it’s like to not live surrounded by Olympians. When you watch them train, and compete and grow up down the street from you, the investment in them, their sport, and their dream, becomes personal.
To those without this privilege, the Winter Games must somewhat resemble the Hunger Games. People compete with knives on their feet. There’s a death-defying sled nearly a mile long made of ice one must slide down headfirst. And if you can’t vault yourself over a five-story building, while performing multiple flips and twists and touching your index finger to your nose the entire time, no way will you walk away with a medal. That anyone walks out of these competitions alive is surely a feat in itself.
But even more than the competitions, the grace and humility, power and determination of the athletes that awe us, it’s the spirit of the Games that has the ability to shift us. If the Olympics stand for anything, it’s the belief that our humanness connects us, regardless of politics, religion, war, or ethnicity. Athletes from around the world stand shoulder to shoulder with each other — not to prove their country’s political system is the best, or their military has more might, or their economy is stronger — but rather in the name of camaraderie.
The Olympics were founded on a love of sport and they have endured because they harness unity, peace, and sportsmanship. A belief our differences don’t define us, we are all here as citizens of one planet.
Or at least, they used to.
The division in this country seems to have spilled into South Korea. And it’s as ironic as it is unpatriotic.
A few months ago one of the most celebrated and accomplished female athletes in the world, Lindsey Vonn, commented that she doesn’t plan to visit the White House should she win in Pyeongchang.
“I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” she said.
Fair enough. It’s not as if she’s in limited company.
But when she didn’t medal in the women’s super-G event, Trump supporters celebrated. And harassed. And failed to understand the meaning of irony: Claiming to be unwaveringly patriotic while rooting for an American to fail. Among the comments she received on Twitter:
“Your president was watching. You let him down. Karma.” [Sidebar: No, he wasn’t. Fox News isn’t airing the Games.]
“You don’t stand for our President? We don’t stand for you.”
“Hey Lindsey- maybe u should focus on your skiing instead of disrespecting our President and being unpatriotic. U think there is a connection between that and u losing? I do. MAGA.”
“You loss cause you bad mouth our President. Happy to see a traitor of the USA defeated. Now retire please.” [Sidebar: Traitor? You know Trump has attacked a number of war heroes, right? P.S. Ever heard of a place called Russia?]
“Maybe you should have focused on your sport more instead of foolishly bashing our American President right before the Olympics…”
Irony isn’t a strong enough word for these people. Neither is idiocy, but at least it’s more fitting. For starters, Vonn competes draped in the red, white and blue. She is practically wearing the American flag down the hill.
“I am the most American person you will ever find,” she said. “… I love my country. I love competing for my country. I’m so proud to be here representing the United States. It hurts me when people say that, because it’s not true.”
The idea that an Olympian (or any U.S. citizen) is unpatriotic because they disagree with the president is what’s un-American. And celebrating when they lose to athletes of another country is what’s traitorous.
Anyone who pledges undying loyalty to their political leader and demands the critics be silenced is better suited to reside in another country. Coincidentally, one just like that happens to be pretty close to Pyeongchang.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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