It's not the obvious things that get me about the Olympics though. Sure, I thought it was great that the U.S. basketball teams dominated, and that U.S. women's soccer captured their third straight gold, and Michael Phelps cemented his considerable legacy. I cheered quite loudly at the close finishes and was glued to the computer screen during the U.S.-Canada semi-final soccer game (I was watching a live blog, counting down the minutes until I could go home and turn on the TV. Alas, I was minutes late. The U.S. scored to win the game right before I walked through the door).
I love those moments, I tuned in every night to the taped-delayed broadcast, after spending the entire day avoiding sports-related Web sites, to watch the U.S. swim team, the women's gymnastics, the track and field events. But those events did not bring the tears.
The moments at the Olympics that get me are the moments that happen only at the Olympics. Of course you get the dominant athletes, the Usain Bolts and the Michael Phelps of the world, but you also get a large amount of athletes who are not there to win a medal. Most of the athletes who show up to compete in the 303 events know that
So it is those stories that really get me going. There was the story of the marathon runner Guor Marial, a refugee from south Sudan who did not have a country to represent. South Sudan, where he is from, is too new of a country to have an Olympic committee and the U.S., where he lives now, did not get his citizenship processed in time. So he ran under the flag of the International Olympic Committee, representing both countries. Marial finished 47th in the marathon.
Then there was Adrien Niyonshuti, a mountain biker from Rwanda. His family torn apart by the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Niyonshuti came to the Olympics to represent his country. He carried the flag during the Opening Ceremonies and aimed to finish the race, which he did, coming in 39th.
There was the more well-known story of South African Oscar Pistorius, who ran in track events despite having both legs amputated below the knee. Pistorius even advanced to the semifinals in the 400 meters, running on two prosthetics. Pistorius' participation in the Olympics was controversial, as there were those who believed that the "blades" he used to run gave him an advantage, but inspiring just the same.
Then there was the story of Kayla Harrison, who won gold for the U.S. in judo, in the 78-kilogram division final. Harrison was sexually abused by a former coach when she was a girl, but overcame the abuse and the depression that came with it, to win a gold medal. How do you not get teary reading about that?
These are just some of the inspiring stories to come from the 17 days of the Olympics. While the 2012 Olympic games will be remembered for Micheal Phelps' swan song, Usain Bolt's speed, Gabby Douglas' smile, the success of the women, and the British pride, for me it will be about the small stories. Because for every Phelps and Bolt and Douglas that walked away with glory, there were hundreds of athletes who did not medal, but walked away Olympians none the less. And that just makes me get all teary.