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Carrying the Torch

Until this summer, I had forgotten how thrilling the Olympics could be. Years of doping, abandoning all pretense of the games being for amateurs, and the introduction of sports of which I disapprove sucked a lot of the excitement out of me. There was a time, though, when the four years between games seemed interminable, when I thrilled to see the flags and hear the anthems of other nations, when I leapt off living room furniture dramatically and tried to “stick” my landing, and when I seriously considered using a yard stick to replicate the pole vault.

Simon is now in the complete thrall of the London Games. Some of his actions duplicate mine: he’s “sticking” landings all over the place, and he’s memorized the flags of many of the countries. (Giving us this gem: “The South Korea flag looks like a cookie split in half.”) He also loves watching gymnastics (“Why do the girls all wear such beautiful shirts?… Can I watch Gabby Douglas again?”), diving, soccer (of course), and track races. Thankfully, he has not explored the home-made pole vault.

He’s also putting his own spin on it. During the thrilling Canada-US women’s semifinal in soccer, he explained to me that the game ends after 90 minutes, the first extra period after 105 minutes, and the second extra period after 123 minutes. “Don’t you mean 120?” I corrected. “No, there’s usually 3 minutes of stoppage time, so it’s 123.” Of course.

Who knew time-keeping could be so interesting! Also thrilling: gymnastics and diving scores. I DO remember how much fun that was back in the old system. Half my pleasure in watching women’s gymnastics came from guessing whether someone earned a 9.25 or 9.88. I still remember Nadia Comaneci getting that perfect 10. Now when I hear Simon guessing on the couch, I’m transported back to those times and am amused at how Simon and I can find common ground, even if he’s more interested in the number than the routine at times.

Perhaps the biggest thrill for him is watching athletes chase world records, a feat that produces the most numbers on screen. Best seen in swimming, the viewer is afforded a chance to focus on split times, the margin between competitors in the pool, and the difference between the current leader and the red line denoting the world record. So many numbers! And all attached to sportiness!

Shortly after the games wrap up, kindergarten will begin. That might be the only thing to ward off what I expect will be an epic post-Olympics let-down. On the plus side, he only has to wait 2 more years before he watches skating scores and times in Sochi.



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