The Olympics — Still Relevant, Still Inspiring

Ratings were down, Rio was a mess, Ryan Lochte got in legal trouble, but what will you remember?

The Olympic Games are a time the world can come together. They are a celebration of both patriotism and sportsmanship.

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OK, sure, viewership is not what it once was — but live streaming is big. And cities bidding to host the event have taken a hit as the more negative aspects to setting up and hosting the games have been revealed in recent years. Still, the Games are booked through 2022 at the moment.

The Games showcase the very best of our human qualities.

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While the Olympic Games may have its issues, the Olympics still matter — and there has been plenty of proof of that during the 2016 Games.

Let’s start with Team USA’s Simone Biles, a gymnast who managed to take home four gold medals. She set a record for the most gold medals for any athlete participating in the women’s gymnastics singles — and she’s only 19. Her long journey to success managed to melt America’s hearts again when a video went viral of her nearly passing out after getting a kiss from her celebrity crush, Zac Efron.

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Then there’s Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who some have deemed one of the greatest athletes to ever participate in the Olympics. The man has won nine gold medals. Watching Bolt run is like watching the impossible come to life. Running the 200 meters in 19.78 seconds, he proves time and time again why spectators cheer him on with, “Lightning Bolt! Lighting Bolt!”

Accomplishments can go far beyond athletics during the games. These are athletes performing on a worldwide stage, representing their respective countries. It’s a level of sportsmanship and conduct that is both unique and touching to watch. Witness the interview where Bolt politely cuts the reporter off to remain silent and pay respect while the U.S. national anthem plays.

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It’s also a time for fun, though. Since getting to the Olympics is an accomplishment in its own right, there’s plenty of high spirits to lift the mood of viewers, like Bolt’s photo pose-and-smile for the camera while in the midst of running faster than most people on Earth.

The Olympics doesn’t just give us surprises and new stories, though.

There are the reliable athletes we root for and watch compete in multiple games. Namely — Michael Phelps. Through personal highs and lows, Phelps has remained a favorite among the U.S. swimming team. He’s won an astounding 23 gold medals. Picking up five gold medals at the 2016 Games, Phelps made headlines for reportedly finishing his last year with the Olympics strong, and for coming back with a refocused energy and grounded family life after making unsavory headlines for multiple DUIs in the past.

Related: Blame it on Rio

Not everyone buys into the virtues of the Olympics. More recently, arguments have been made about infrastructure waste the Games can bring to their temporary homes. In fact, many cities today find it more of a hassle than anything to host, so bidding is not what it used to be.

Many cities that do bid wind up backing out. Oslo, Stockholm, and Krakow, Poland, all retracted bids after a failure to gain any popular support among citizens. Even Boston was in the running for the 2022 Winter Olympics — until organizers found more support for “No Boston Olympics.” Kelly Gossett, one of the three founders, says she’s received emails from citizens in Toronto and Los Angeles for advice on how to stop potential Olympic Games there.

The arguments are congested traffic, decaying stadiums left after the games are over, wasted contracts and money, and a general headache for people living in the city.

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Many also point out that the television ratings have gone down for the Olympics, suggesting a dip in importance. While it’s true ratings have gone down, online viewership has been higher than ever. Billions of views were accumulated through online streaming. With viewers having more choices of how to watch, some Olympic moments became bigger, and arguably more significant, than ever this year.

The Olympics are a break from the negative news cycle and the constant bickering between countrymen.

While we pit sports teams against one another, we join in rooting for our country during the Olympics. The world comes together in the name of sportsmanship and individual accomplishment. The Olympics matter because they provide us with the inspirational stories, the moments of human accomplishment, and the competition that can define the very best of our human qualities. The Olympics are a breath of fresh air for the world, patriotism, and good, old-fashioned competition.

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