For two weeks, every four years, something strange happens to me. I go from a quiet, book-loving, coffee-drinking, gallery-visiting kind of gal to a person my friends and family, not to mention myself, can barely recognise.
Suddenly I’m an expert in every sport, including ones I’ve never played before like handball and shooting. The sports pages become my go-to section in the morning, the news section being discarded on the floor. I start guzzling sports drinks instead of my dark roasted brew.
I take up tennis for about, oh, 10 days. I will even do some stretches before my twice-weekly walk. I will buy a Nike tee-shirt.
It is my Olympics curse. And I love this brief but exciting period of insanity; a time when the whole nation forgets its petty indifferences and comes together on something that really matters – beating the Poms and the Yanks.
This curse of course doesn’t just strike me. But it does look especially ridiculous when I leave my house to do a ‘breezy’ 10km run after watching the marathon, and pull up 200m later with a stitch.
But I don’t care. The Olympics aren’t about being cool. If that were the case, the cycling team would re-think those lycra outfits and our national colours would be fuchsia and liquid silver – very hot colours this season.
In an era when our differences are more prominent than what we share in common, the Olympics are an antidote to those feelings of cultural isolation. It’s one of the few times you can hop onto a bus, look a stranger in the eyes and smile, because you’re both thinking the same thing – we won!
During those two glorious weeks, we all want the same thing – gold and glory. The athletes may cross the line in first position but it’s the nation that really wins. We feel it and it brings a much-needed glow to our collective souls. When Stephanie Rice dives into the pool, the country can forget the carbon tax and dodgy economy – we have something more important to think about.
In typical fashion, I have no interest whatsoever in reading about the pre-games preparations, the selection trials or which athletes are failing their drug tests. I couldn’t name one member of the athletics team or how many medals are expected to be won. I was barely aware that Ian Thorpe’s comeback ended in a belly flop. But I know as soon as the lights go down at London’s new stadium and the first performer steps on the stage, I will be fixated. My eyes will widen, my breath is shallow and I’ll enter a new, unfortunately temporary world, where everyone plays by the same rules and heroes really do exist.
No other sporting event affects me like this – The Tour de France is a snooze, the World Cup has more fake drama than a US soap and the Commonwealth Games are just a warm up. The Olympics are the Oscars of the sporting world. When they’re on, we’re all Gwyneth Paltrow, clutching a golden statue.
As corny as it sounds, I really do believe that the Olympics represent the idea of world peace – a concept that sounds more and more like fiction by the day. All those warm and fuzzy feelings disperse as soon as the medal podiums are torn down, but at least it’s a nice reminder that the world hasn’t completely given up on getting along.
Countries can go up against each other, with the only thing being spilt is sweat, not blood. The loser loses nothing more than a bit of pride, instead of a limb. It would be great if the Olympics could replace the United Nations and instead of wars, countries could work out their differences with hockey.
But for two weeks, every four years, I get to pretend this is what happens. And it makes me, and Nike, very happy.
Alana Schetzer is a Melbourne-based journalist and writer. She doesn’t like being sick. She tweets at @schetzer.
How would you rate your level of excitement about the Olympics? Are you excited to see any of these athletes?
Swimming: In Stephanie Rice's second Olympics, she'll be looking to hold onto the gold medal in the 400m individual medley.
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