What the Olympics Are Really About

One of my closest friends from high school is six feet five inches, a lean 200 pounds and rows crew for Stanford. He is the ideal shape and size for a rower, and his coach has told him that if he does everything right and gives all that he can, he can row in the Olympics for Team USA. However, Karsten is also a frat star, and the twin lures of beer and California girls are tempting distractions from 5:00 a.m. workouts.

I have taken it upon myself to motivate him, mainly because I want to say that I have a friend in the Olympics. Originally, the strategy was to appeal to his love for his country, the pride he would feel while representing it and the glory that could be his. But it turns out that those things are all well and good until you have to wake up for them before sunrise. So I have turned to a new motivational tactic — tempting tales of the Olympic Village.

In retrospect, I feel naïve for not seeing this coming. Take several thousand of the world’s best athletes who have been training gruelingly and ceaselessly for the past four years and throw them all together for two weeks, and some steam is going to get blown off. In acknowledgement of this fact, 70,000 condoms were bought for the Beijing Games in 2008 — and they ran out.

In the words of one male Olympian: “Even if her face is a seven, her body’s a 20.” Or as another athlete put it: “Sex will only hurt your performance … if you do it while competing.”

Though none of us besides possibly Karsten will ever set foot in the Village, for my friends and I, the Olympics are still all about the girls. Starting in 2004, my best friend and I watched every single match played by Misty May and Kerri Walsh.

We were their biggest fans as they made their first two gold medal runs. We became connoisseurs of the sport, analyzing every bump, set and spike, admiring their flawless communication and impeccable technique. Not to mention their great bodies. Then they came to cold, rainy London. A little-known rule stipulates that beach volleyball players do not have to wear bikinis if the temperature is less than 60 degrees. And the sport no longer seemed the same.

Fortunately, there were other talented, hard-working and gorgeous athletes for us to turn our eyes to. The Dutch field hockey team became well known as the most attractive squad competing in these games — a quick Google search yields over 2,000,000 results for these lovely ladies. Word also spread about Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco who, in her spare time, is a model.

And of course, there is Alex Morgan, who has single-handedly created a generation of women’s soccer fans. My cousin is stationed at an Air Force Base in England and managed to secure tickets to no less than five of the USA Women’s soccer games. After getting his tickets, the first thing he did was make a sign giving her his number.

My personal favorite, however, was Logan Tom. Not many of my friends knew who she was, and those who did often questioned my judgment. Yes, at 34 years old she may be a little mature. Her cool focus and icy determination might be a little intimidating. But I like my girls smart, and she went to Stanford. I like someone who will tell me what to do, and she is clearly the boss on the court. I also prefer my girls to be shorter than me and she would tower over me by 10 inches if I was ever fortunate enough to meet her, but two out of three is not that bad.

Of course, there is a lot more to watch at the Olympics than the girls. Usain Bolt made an argument for being the best sprinter of all time. Michael Phelps proved that he is the greatest Olympian of all time. And when asked what the highlight of these games was, he said getting a tweet from Lil’ Wayne.

The Fab Five of the women’s gymnastics team stole the hearts of more than teenage boys. Bob Costas is still trying to find a hairstyle that works for him. Synchronized swimming, white water rafting and equestrian all got their time in the sun. The good old USA proved that, even if China has all our money, we can still win the medal count. But those things are not going to get Karsten out of bed at 5 a.m. to fulfill my Olympic dreams for him. With any luck, those girls will.

—By Bennett Ostdiek