The Olympic spirit isn't just a cliché

Like Bev Bourne (see story on page 13), I've always been a big fan of the Olympics.

I plant myself in front of the television set for immersion in both summer and winter Olympic sports and terminology far removed from my everyday life - biathlon, triple Lutz, Super G, halfpipe, vault, uneven bars, dressage.

In 1996, though, my family lived within easy driving distance of Atlanta, where the summer Games were held. So naturally we wanted to be there.

The "glamorous" events - diving, pole vaulting, synchronized swimming - were sold out. But we just wanted to be part of the experience, so we got tickets for what was left - field hockey and a baseball game pitting Cuba against Nicaragua.

As it turned out, these "minor venues" were ideal for getting the feel of the Games. Field hockey, especially, attracted people of dozens of nationalities, and they were happy to explain the fine points of the sport to the many Americans who hadn't encountered it since their school days.

Once the conversational ice was broken with questions and answers about what was happening on the field, talk turned more personal - an Aussie's annual four-week trip across the US and Sikh life in a small Indian village.

Despite all that the TV networks had done to bring the Olympics "up close and personal" into my living room, I'd never gotten the feel of what it was like to be a spectator at the Games - the friendliness that pervaded everything and the spirit of community that existed among people from so many nations.

Next month, I'll find myself in front of the TV again, but I'll be watching with a renewed appreciation for what the Olympics are all about.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

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