The Borderless Man

by Kenneth Rayman on February 23, 2018
As the Olympics are coming to a close in a few days, I’m reminded that in a few days the feeling of peace and camaraderie of humanity will also be gone. I’ve cheered for my home country but I’ve also cheered for the Olympic Athletes from Russia (unable to compete under their nation’s name due to doping allegations) as well as Norway and Sweden, Germany and Slovenia, as well as seeing the Jamaican team for the first time outside the movie “Cool Runnings,” Nigeria competing in their first ever Winter Games while watching the two-man Bobsled, and most notably seeing the Unified Korean team on the Korean Peninsula. While they couldn’t be compared to the other teams, watching the North Korean figure skating couple getting showered with flowers, gifts, and cheers after their performance from the non-DPRK crowd was amazing and given that it was 60 miles South of the militarized border made it even more special.

The Winter Games is more my Olympics than the Summer Games, even though I love both. I could say it’s because I’m a Winter, not a Summer, as a person, but I think it also has to do with the fact that the earliest memories I have of the Olympics were probably in 1994 with the Lillehammer Games. Those were the games that I first knew, with the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding attack scandal leading up to them in the news constantly. But I remember being fascinated with them, sitting in front of the tv, spellbound, with the family nightly. I also didn’t understand that they were only for two weeks and got confused a while later when I asked to watch the Olympics being told that they were over.

Luckily for me, 1994 was the beginning of the offset with the every 2 years holding of an Olympic event with their own usual four year intervals, changed in 1986 by the Olympic committee. I’ve had the opportunity to be a global citizen more often than the generations before me and I relish that.

What I think draws me to the Winter Games and what spellbound me as a kid was the events themselves were so alien to a kid in flat farmland Indiana, where the closest skiing, in my eyes, was Denver, CO (a lightyear away, to an 8 year old). I couldn’t imagine skating or skiing with no hills in sight where I lived. When I got older the only event on early in the morning while getting ready for school was a strange sport called Curling. I had no idea what I was watching at first, wondering how the similar slow looking throws of the stones managed to get anywhere down the full length of the ice and what the sweeping did for it but after several events over the years I grasped it little by little. Also we, as the United States, weren’t the “clear cut” winners each time. I got to see other countries, cultures, and see the spotlight on others that would eventually spark my curiosity of the outside world.

The Winter Games hold a special place in my life as a place where others shine, exposing the world to new and different cultural sports, like that of Curling, Nordic Combined and Cross Country skiing, Bobsled, Skeleton, Luge, and Ski Jumping (up to that point in my childhood I’d only seen ski jumping in a Goofy cartoon), and allowing me now to live vicariously through them wishing I had the opportunity when I was younger to participate in something so unique.

Norway, it is reported, holds the record for most Winter Games medals, Germany usually comes in close to them followed by Italy, the Netherlands or maybe even Russia but the US isn’t a heavy favorite like in the Summer Olympics. To me the focus in letting the world shine as one and celebrating the successes even when the athletes of your country aren’t on the podium gives you the privilege to cheer the world’s best, in the spirit of the Games. I’ve been glued to the tv for the last 13 days and I can’t wait until the next Games, Winter or Summer, so that I may cheer on my fellow world citizens and watch sports that are more cultural than competitive.