Sochi 2014: The Spirit of Sportsmanship

Aside from the fact that I started teaching my grade 8s Meaghan’s Sochi 2014 French unit this week, this post does not have very much to do directly with education or teaching.  This post has everything to do with the Olympic Games!  Truth: I was almost late for yoga yesterday (yes, the class that I teach…) because I was watching Teams Canada, Russia and USA skate it out in the pairs ice dance competition. Oops. 

In case you haven’t noticed, Meaghan and I keep it pretty peaceful here on Tale of Two Teachers.  We aren’t overly political people and both of us utterly detest confrontation.  We are happy to educate ourselves on controversial topics and we often discuss both sides of political issues.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have our own opinions…trust me, we do!  But we’d rather just embrace the peace.  So, I am not going to delve too deeply into the scandals and controversy that seem to be enveloping the Sochi Olympic Games – you all can do your own Google searches on the latest rumors and ridiculousness people are Facebooking and Tweeting about (if you’re into that).  I will say, though, that I feel very sad about the fact that the hashtag #sochifails even exists.  I’m not a Twitter queen, but I know how a hashtag works (people need to create it and feed it in order to make it noticeable).  My opinion about #sochifails is that the people participating in the Olympic Games are doing a disservice to their own Olympic experience and detracting from the spirit of sportsmanship the Games create.  Yes, I realize I am not in Sochi to experience toilets without dividing walls for privacy, etc., but I have traveled to and through developing nations…and I survived the less-than-perfect living conditions.  If anything, I think it’s important for people to realize that the world isn’t the same place as our healthy, wealthy little corner in North America.  Just because a nation hosts an Olympic Games doesn’t mean they need to have separate toilet stalls for every athlete.  Just sayin’.

I feel for my thirteen year old students right now, children who are entirely immersed in our social media obsessed world, and who have probably seen things like #sochifails (guaranteed I’m going to hear all about some of the photos posted when I go to school tomorrow).  For many of my students, these Sochi Games are their “first” winter Olympics because they were only nine years old in 2010 during the Vancouver Games and; therefore, don’t have many clear memories of the whole experience.  Because of this, I am trying my hardest to soak in this Olympic season.  My good friend recently told me she thinks what keeps teachers alive in this profession is eternal optimism; therefore, I’m trying to share the sheer awesomeness that is the Olympic Games with my grade 8s so that they have more memories than the negative aspects social media is portraying.  Go for it, call me the eternal optimist 🙂

It is true that I have an entirely biased (and positive) outlook when it comes to the Olympic Games.  It’s hard not to when you were essentially raised by an Olympian…

This is my former rhythmic gymnastics coach, Camille Martens.  Camille competed for Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Camille's children, Micah and Anastasia, dug out their mama's Team Canada jackets and wore them during Sochi's Opening Ceremonies.  They said, "Mom, these Games are important because they are about dreams..."

Camille’s children, Micah and Anastasia, dug out their mama’s Team Canada jackets and wore them during Sochi’s Opening Ceremonies. They said, “Mom, these Games are important because they are about dreams…”

So, in an attempt to conquer all the Olympic bashing that people love to do lately, I had my class watch our great country march out during the Opening Ceremonies last Friday morning.  Most of my students watched in awe as the world’s greatest athletes waved, shouted and smiled to the cameras.  We discussed important things while watching the Opening Ceremonies, such as Germany’s fantastic rainbow tracksuits and whether that was Germany’s way of supporting the Games’ gay athletes or merely a coincidence (we had previously discussed the former Communist Russia in class and questioned if some of those lingering ideals might have fueled the homophobic attitude at the outset of these Games).  We talked about what it might feel like to walk with the most incredible athletes, who are on your team, and listen to the sound of everyone cheering for you.  We talked about how we wished the athletes would simply put their iPhones down and soak in the moment they worked so hard for (and I did a little nudging to all my students as well…)  We celebrated with the world on Friday morning and no body mentioned a single “Sochi fail”.  It was beautiful.

It’s important to me that my students know and understand that the Olympic Games are much more than a gathering of really awesome athletes.  Celine Dion sang it best in her theme song for the ’96 Games, “…the strength of just “I can” has brought together people of all nations”.

My husband just called me to say that Jian Ghomeshi essentially read my mind and wanted to sum up this post with his own words (he’s much more eloquent than I am, anyhow).  Take it away, Jian: Q Essay: Dispelling the ‘cold’ Russian Stereotype.

The coming together of our nation was absolutely incredible four years ago at the Vancouver Olympic Games.  Doesn't get better than Tim Hortons and Olympic mittens :)

The coming together of our nation was absolutely incredible four years ago at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Doesn’t get better than Tim Hortons and Olympic mittens 🙂


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