By Veronica Mackey
Looking for inspiring content to write about the Olympics should be easy. After all, what’s not to like about young athletes pushing their bodies to the limit for a chance at amateur sports’ highest honor?
Yet, the top Google searches sound so cynical. Headlines like “NBC Falls Short on Opening Ceremony,” “4 Ways NBC Olympics Coverage Could Be Better,” and “A Brief History of Sexism in TV Coverage of the Olympics” are not at all inspiring.
There is a lot not to love about the Olympics, not only this one, but any of the ones in the past. And the myriad of problems in Rio from Zika and crime to plumbing have been well documented.
But frankly, I prefer to take a break from all this complaining and comparing, and simply watch good sports, good sportsmanship and thrilling athletic achievements. I want to hear the touching back stories of how athletes made it to the Olympics against seemingly impossible odds, cheer on Team USA, and get replays of body bending performances that only happen once in a lifetime and can never be repeated anywhere else.
Case in point is the jaw dropping floor routine performed by Simone Biles on Tuesday. All I can say is she dropped to the floor, propelled her body up again with no hands, then took a giant leap into the air, while actually making it appear easy.
These moments make watching the Games a must-see event. And here is why you want to catch as much Olympic coverage as you can:
Cheer for Team Refugee. The International Olympic Committee announced in March that a first-ever team would be selected among displaced athletes from South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They would compete in three sports – athletics, swimming and judo. Getting the opportunity to compete on the world stage is for this group a gift from the gods—and one that reminds everyone what is really important. The 10-member delegation received a stadium rattling ovation during the opening ceremony. As the NPR headline read: “For Refugee Team, Just Being in Rio is Like Winning Gold.”
Winning Vicariously. For everyone who crosses the finish line, does a triple somersault or knocks out their opponent in 4 rounds, there are millions of armchair critics who will say this gymnast should have landed better or that runner should have paced himself better. The truth is, we can’t do anything close to what we see them do. Watching the Olympics is a way to live vicariously through others. We win by proxy, minus the pain and years of grueling training.
Love, Peace and Happiness. With so much wrong in the world, it’s comforting to see what’s right. Having people come together from around the world to a country that is, within itself a melting pot, just feels good. It helps folks see that inside we are basically the same. We respond to triumph and defeat in very similar ways. We smile when we’re happy and cry when we’re sad. It’s what makes us part of the human race.
The next Summer Olympic Games will take place in 2020. Los Angeles hopes to get the Olympics in 2024. Until then, we can do ourselves a big favor by enjoying the heck out of the one that’s here. Look for the positive and get all you can out of the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016. Check NBC.com for a full schedule of events.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, Olympic, member of the USA fencing team and inspiration for Muslim-American women
Michael Phelps, 20-time Olympic gold medalist and human “fish”
Members of the Refugee Olympic Team with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and UNHCR staff inside the Olympic Village. Photo credit: