The 2010 Olympics from a Traveler’s Perspective

The 2010 Olympics from a Travelers PerspectiveI have never been so excited for the Olympic Games to start.

I thought that perhaps it was because I’ve been reading up on the subject for articles on Matador Sports for the past couple months, researching information about the last-minute skiing issues, increased security and Marjan Kahlor, the first woman to represent Iran in the winter Olympics. Or maybe I was just tired of watching week after week of football that any different sporting event would have been welcomed into my living room.

But as I waited anxiously from my West Coast home on Friday night, reading everyone’s updates on Twitter and Facebook about the opening ceremonies they were watching in real time, I began to realize the significance of these games to me. My travel writing and blogging friends and colleagues around the world were also anxious for the Olympic Games to start. These people are living, currently located in or somewhere in transition between (but not nearly limited to) New Zealand, Taiwan, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Canada and just about every state in the United States.

For the first time, the parade of nations was more than an alphabetical listing of countries to me. Though I’ve always been interested in travel, I am now immersed in it, so I found myself thinking about where the countries were located and what was in each of them that I wanted to see and experience. I thought about the people I know who have ties to each of them. When the Argentinian team walked in, I wondered whether Leigh was watching the ceremonies from her expat home with her husband and daughter. The presence of Australia made me think of my long-time friend, Heather, who swore she would move to the country someday (which she did), and my fellow travel bloggers Craig and Linda from Indie Travel Podcast and Rob, who is crossing the country by van right now.

And so on … Keith and Klaas in the Netherlands, Lola in both Sweden and Nigeria, Neha in Croatia, Sherry who is a little bit of everywhere but most closely tied to Vietnam in my mind, Candice and Ian in Canada, and so many more that it’s not even conceivable to think about listing them all here. My point, though, is that places are no longer just names. They are areas with personalities that serve as home to my friends and colleagues. They are places with stories. I felt a little tug at my emotions when Peru’s team walked into the stadium, and I felt sad that Kenya wasn’t represented this year. When the team from Georgia entered the stadium and everyone gave them a standing ovation (and later when there was a minute of silence in honor of the fallen athlete), I thought about how this is exactly the way the travel community reacts. If something should happen to any one of us (like Matador contributor Sarah Shourd, who is currently being detained in Iran), we would honor that person because they are one of us.

The 2010 Olympics from a Travelers PerspectiveThis year, as the opening ceremonies unfolded, I was moved by the simplicity and subtlety of the choreography. I liked how each region in Canada was showcased and given the opportunity to share it’s particular quirk, talent, history and personality. And again, it made me think about how all travel bloggers and writers have something in common. We all have our niche, a unique voice and a different style. Apart we are each individuals, but together we make a colorful, dynamic community.

Inevitably, as the advent of the Olympics draws near, there is always talk about the politics and bureaucracy surrounding the games and the countries that choose to participate. What is the environmental footprint? How can countries that have so little money afford the expense of something “petty” like the Olympics? Since we’re talking about a global event, should we acknowledge the human rights issues, poverty and inequalities that take place in various countries around the world?

I’m not opposed to discussing controversial issues as they pertain to the Olympics, and, in fact, I think it’s a good forum that allows us to discuss things that most people wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, but at it’s very core, I like to focus on what the Olympic Games really represent: A time and place where people from many different backgrounds and cultures come together to celebrate a shared interest. Like my colleagues, they don’t all know each other by name or face. They, like us, have different religious, cultural and political ideologies. Despite their differences, however, they share a love for sport and competition. Like my fellow travel writers and bloggers spread across this planet, they are bound by something significantly more meaningful that becomes personal when we’re more than just names and places stuck on a map.

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The 2010 Olympics from a Travelers Perspective
JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with big dreams and a desire to touch all seven continents. You can also find JoAnna at joannahaugen.com and at The 52 Letters Project.

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19 Responses

  1. Adam Roy says:

    Bravo. I watched the opening ceremony as well. I think my favorite moment may have been the announcer’s comment about Ireland, which went something like “Ireland entering now. You know, with the countries arranged in alphabetical order, Ireland is all that’s standing between Iran and Israel.”

  2. Julie says:

    I really loved this; thanks:

    My point, though, is that places are no longer just names. They are areas with personalities that serve as home to my friends and colleagues. They are places with stories. I felt a little tug at my emotions when Peru’s team walked into the stadium, and I felt sad that Kenya wasn’t represented this year. When the team from Georgia entered the stadium and everyone gave them a standing ovation (and later when there was a minute of silence in honor of the fallen athlete), I thought about how this is exactly the way the travel community reacts. If something should happen to any one of us (like Matador contributor Sarah Shourd, who is currently being detained in Iran), we would honor that person because they are one of us.”

  3. I was with you — teary-eyed and very excited as the Games began. There is something marvelous about feeling connected to the entire world. I’ve added a link to this post on my own — a reflection on my visit to the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City:

    http://www.gypsysguide.com/2010/02/photo-friday-olympics.html

  4. Candice says:

    So glad you wrote about this! When you emailed me I started thinking about it long and hard too. Funny how any other year I never really followed along, and this year I’m totally immersed. I feel regret when I’m not paying attention to what’s going on.

    You’re totally right, feels like the world is a little closer nowadays.

  5. Gray says:

    Wow. This is so beautifully written, JoAnna. I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always loved the Olympics. This year, I haven’t followed the Olympics at all. Why? I’ve been so immersed in my 2nd full-time “job” as a travel blogger, I thought: “If I watch the Olympics, when will these blog posts get written? When will my trip photos get processed? How will I stay on top of reading other people’s blog posts? I don’t have time for the Olympics!” I mean, that’s like saying “I’m too busy blogging about travel to travel.”

    Your article is a reminder to me to not allow the trees to block my vision of the forest. I’m turning on the Olympics right now. :-)

  6. Cory says:

    The Olympics, oddly enough, brings out a streak of national pride that I tend to forget I have. I want Americans to win medals. I want our country to be ahead in the medal count. I want our underdog athletes to beat the pants off of the dominant winter sports nations. I want it so bad I (we) stand and yell encouragements at the T.V. I want it, I believe, because I want our nation to be noted for the skill of its individual parts, not for the brute military and political force we wield. The Olympics are one of the rare times I feel like America demonstrates what the Founders dreamed we could be.

  7. Lola says:

    Well said, JoAnna!

    The parade of nations has always been my favorite part of every Olympics.

    We were also excited to see how each country would represent itself style-wise and even more excited when they wove in bits and pieces of their culture into their outfits.

    An opportunity to celebrate each country’s culture with them — regardless of religion or political affiliation.

  8. Carina says:

    JoAnna this is a wonderful post. I really love your perspective on how the connections to other places and people make it mean so much more. Bravo on a truly original and enlightening post.

  9. TheWordWire says:

    Thank you for this enlightening post — You put your finger on something I was feeling, but didn’t know how to say: social media — travel blogs in particular — just makes the world seem smaller. This is the first time in years I’ve been interested in the Olympics, but I’m watching it this year on the edge of my seat. Part of that is because I’m connected to an online community that’s watching. Part of it is because, through travel blogs, I’ve learned things about the places represented. Love your perspective on this — happy travels!

  10. Alyssa says:

    I just read this piece and it’s really, really wonderful. It makes me so grateful for being able to connect with writers/travelers/passionate people that make places more than just specs on a map!

  11. Alouise says:

    Funny enough I’ve never really been a sports person, even the Olympics don’t usually excite me. Maybe it’s because these games are in Vancouver and I’m Canadian, but I’ve really enjoyed watching them. I really enjoyed the opening ceremonies, especially the parade of nations, seeing the variety of countries represented at the games. It sounds a bit corny but its nice to see an event that unites so many people from all over the world. The global community does feel a lot smaller than it used to.

  12. Nomadic Matt says:

    wait.…it’s the olympics? I haven’t watched anything but lost or how i met your mother in weeks!

  13. Sherry Ott says:

    Totally agree — the parade of nations really takes on a new meaning when you’ve actually been to those places! I had so much fun watching the parade and trying to place the countries on a map in my mind…a great geography game.
    Loving the Olympic games!

  14. Amiee says:

    Wow what a beautiful post! I have had to settle with next day highlights, it is only every four years that I wish I had a darned TV or some non-hippie friends with cable. Crazy to think it was the Olympics that brought me to Salt Lake and what an amazing time — sheesh.

  15. Susan says:

    Olympics is always been a special event to me and is close to my heart, i am not just a traveller, i’m a savvy athlete too! Glad that in this time of event all nations unite.

  16. Abby says:

    I just read Chris’ piece on this, too. It’s so strange — this year is the first time that I had these sentiments while watching the parade of athletes!

  17. JoAnna says:

    I’ve always loved the Olympics, but I think I see it from a different perspective now, and I like that. It makes me appreciate it more.

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