THE OLYMPIC GAMES EXPERIENCE

Growing up the Olympic Games was always a magical time of the year that showcased history and inspiration. All of the years of hard-work and sacrifice displayed in one moment. The games allow us to support our sporting heroes, and to patriotically support our nations all while being exposed to a variety of different cultures around the world.

I have always looked forward to the Olympics since the Sydney 2000 games, and each time the games come to an end I have four years to build up excitement and anticipation for the next event in the next city. Although the games have increased in extravagance in recent years, the opening ceremonies of Beijing 2008 and London 2012 come to mind, this year, with the Olympics about to start, the mood just doesn’t feel the same. The promotion of this Olympic games hasn’t been as visible as the previous games such as the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 games. It seems like there has been a struggle to package the experience and excitement of the games in a way that will stimulate anticipation.

Working at the London 2012 Olympics was a great experience for me, working at a retail store that was next to the NBC Sports Studio enabled me to meet the likes of Serena Williams, Jason Richardson, Michael Phelps, Venus Williams etc. The mood at the time was filled with inspiration and excitement among spectators and fans and I was able to soak all of that up. It was amazing for me as it was an Olympic Games in my hometown, which made this Olympics much more special than previous ones and easier to follow. Despite my association with the Olympics, I believe I still would have felt connected to the Games due to it being in my backyard.

I should point out the myriad of issues surrounding this years event. It’s been overshadowed by controversy such as the banning of Russian athletes and health scares in the form of Zika.

That being said, there is plenty to look forward to this year, for example, how the newly introduced sports fare?

Golf will be appearing in the games for the first time. Unfortunately some of the sports biggest stars, most notably Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy will not be competing. Will this lessen the experience? I believe the absence of bigger stars will provide the opportunity for us to discover upcoming or emerging golf players.

Rugby sevens is an interesting sport that is being introduced into the Olympic Games, a shorter version of traditional Rugby, sevens consists of seven-minute halves played with seven players on each team. With Rugby sevens now being on one of the biggest stages in sports, this will likely further increase the participation and popularity of Rugby sevens going forward following the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where the event had the highest attendance of a World Rugby sanctioned Rugby event at the time. The nature of the game is focused on speed, change of direction and utilising the additional space available on the field which I believe will compliment the Olympic Games well, where the increased intensity in play matches the atmosphere, providing a dynamic and electrifying experience. Not so different from a 50 metre sprint in a pool or an 100 metre sprint on a track. Rugby sevens is what 5-a-side football is to 11-a-side football if it was played on an 11-a-side pitch. It makes it much easier for an individual rugby player to influence the game. Because of this, the athleticism required to participate in sevens is extremely high, and it could be argued that this provides a more valuable contribution to the team over technical abilities in comparison to traditional Rugby. I think the addition of Rugby sevens to the Olympics will bring more excitement and will create more interest for the sport of Rugby as a whole.

Overall, the Olympic Games has always been a symbol for inspiration and history, and this has been apparent at previous games such as Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London. This years games had to deal with unique challenges such as athlete bans and Zika, which has impacted the anticipation for the games. The introductions of sports such as Rugby sevens and Golf will bring new life into the Games, providing new and unique experiences and putting a spotlight on more skill and explosive based sports.

The one thing these Games may show is that regardless of the packaging, the delivery will be key to ensuring an event that will captivate millions. I’m looking forward to continuing to give my take on the Rio Games as it unfolds.