Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Olympic Impact

"You can't be what you can't see" -Marian Wright Edelmen

These wise words from Edelmen really describes the power of the Olympic games.  I've realized one of my favorite things about the Olympics is the fact that one can watch a variety of sports twenty-four hours a day.  The even better thing is that, for the most part, men's and women's sports are treated equally by the media and are covered with the same air time, enthusiasm, and energy.  A gold medal is a gold medal no matter if it's won by a male or a female.  It's so exciting to be able to watch women play sports at the highest level in the world, and they play it well.  The women's final hockey game between the United States and Canada was phenomenal.  It was one of the best and most stressful games I've ever watched.  The important thing is the impact that the Olympics and this coverage has.  People, and especially girls, around the world can watch and learn that this is a possibility.  They could be speed skating, skiing, and bobsledding for a gold medal.  Before this, most didn't even know this was an option.  It's watching Michaela Shiffrin knife down the slalom course to win a gold medal, and it's seeing Vermonter Sophie Caldwell step it up in the last twenty five meters of the women's nordic sprint semi finals to qualify for the finals.  These moments are where the seed is planted, motivation is fired, and dreams are born.

It's not only the coverage of the actual games, but even the commercials are inspiring.  I've teared up more than a couple of times during the ads (excluding the McDonalds ad where a gold medals is compared to chicken nuggets, but that's a completely different post).  I've been impressed with the media's portrayal of women during these games, and there have really been a lot of positives as the games come to a close.  The Olympic coverage is positive for just the fact that we can see powerful female athletes play sports, but the usually the commercials fit right neatly back into the society's hegemonic structure.  But, really, this is not the case for the Sochi games.  P&G have absolutely nailed it with the 'thank you mom' commercials, and nothing broke me up more than this one.  Proctor and Gamble are recognizing moms and the big role they play in everything. The Citi Bank commercials have highlighted women and men and not to mention have been incredibly inspiring.  These commercials could single handedly keep my motivation at an all time high during my comeback from this hip injury.  Citi Bank is not only making great ads, but they are backing this with actual initiative and funding to get more kids into the sport.  We need more commercials where Julie Chu is talking about playing hockey with the boys.  The United commercials were really clever (the luge athlete in the lay flat seat was brilliant), and they showed male and female athletes.  My biggest cheer goes to GE for making a commercial entitled 'what my mom does at GE'.  A girl describes her mom being an engineer at GE who makes high technology that would so typical be seen as a male job.  Thank you so much GE for doing this.  The commercial that wins the gold medal is P&G's #GirlsCan.  This is absolutely empowering.  Join the conversation and let's keep this initiative rolling.

I wish mainstream tv was like this all of the time.  Can you imagine the impact it would have on average America?  How many more kids would be inspired to get outside and play like their favorite heroes?  Pretty much every commercial wants to make me get up and train hard.  How do we press major television networks to air women's sports all of the time?  I want to know how I can watch more USA women's hockey.  I need to figure out where I can follow my favorite american nordic skiers.  I know all of our World Cup mountain bike races, which are regular season Olympic equivalents, are aired on the internet by  There has to be similar networks out there doing the same for all of these fantastic fringe Olympic sports.  I'll get back to you with answers.

We need to push the networks to air more women's sports so there's not the two year Olympic lag time in between floods of inspiration.  Until then, organizations like In The Arena and Little Bellas are working on the ground to carry out the same Olympic impact.  Olympians are in the best position to inspire.  In the Arena supports current and potential Olympians to work with kids.  I guarantee there have been a lot of lives changed through watching ITA'er Brian Gregg race in his first Olympic ski race in Sochi.  The Little Bellas and In the Arena carry the impact a step further than just watching coverage on tv.  Olympians become mentors.  Olympians teach kids how to play a sport.  Olympians become friends.  I can describe to all of the Little Bellas that they are just like me when I was growing up.  I went to the same elementary school, I played a lot of the same sports, and I grew up on the same trails.   I just set goals and put an enormous amount of hard work towards them.  These kids can do anything they set their minds to with the same amount of hard work.  They, too, can go to the Olympics. Thank you Sochi Olympics, In the Arena, and Little Bellas for inspiring a generation to move and for showing that these sports are a possibility.  After all, you can't be what you can't see.