Words & Banter

The Olympics – Memories & Money

Photo by Mawardibahar on iStock

I used to love the Olympics. It was all about, as the introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports would say, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” But it was so much more. As one of my favorite parts of the Olympic coverage was when Olympic host Jim McKay (I’m showing my age) would profile athletes, bringing their backstories to life, making the events more personal, touching, and, often, dramatic.

And today? Well, at the risk of sounding like an old person and the yearning for “the good ‘ole days” when the Olympics were about sports, athletes, and medal counts, it now seems like the word “politics” has cast its ugly shadow on the Games. The “backstories” of the Beijing Games are about protecting our athletes (not just from COVID, but from China hacking cell phones) and whether we should even be competing because of China’s human rights abuses. An Olympics with diplomatic boycotts, and China and Russia using the opening ceremony to declare a “partnership”.

All of which I found myself saying to Black, then making the innocent (or so I thought) comment of wondering why the Olympics just can’t be the way it used to be. For the record, it was a rhetorical question. I didn’t want an answer, I wanted to stroll down memory lane. But Black, of course, felt the need to reply,

Follow the money. The Olympics is big money, with sponsorships generating billions of dollars of revenue and global corporate sponsors spending hundreds of millions of dollars. When we were growing up, it was a sporting event that unified the world, if only for a few weeks. (Plus, there were only a handful of television networks – no cable, no streaming, no social media). Now, it is a commercial event. “Wanting to win” used to be about national pride, now it seems to be about market share.

I knew what she meant and thought about all the “marketing” behind the companies like Ralph Lauren dressing the U.S. Olympic team, but preferred to think about the athletes talking about how they felt when they wore the team uniforms. A feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves, a culmination of years of hard work and dedication, about doing their best for their country. About pride.

But what about when there are moral implications? I know the athletes don’t get to decide where the games are held, but when the host country is one that we have serious humanity issues with, shouldn’t the Olympics and its sponsors stand up for what they believe. I couldn’t help but ask Black, this time hoping for answers, but instead got questions,

If you are the International Olympic Committee with so much money on the line, plus so few countries willing to go to the expense of hosting, especially given the complications due to COIVD, what do you do? If you are a sponsor, who “claims” to value social responsibility (companies are even rated by environmental, social, and governance criteria), how do you make decisions about a country like China that is such a huge business opportunity, even if it is politically intolerant? How many people, let alone companies, do you think have the guts to stand up and do what is right versus what is profitable? And, is there a longer-term price that will be paid?

Maybe I’m being an ostrich, but I didn’t want to think about the future of the Olympics. Instead, I thought about the millions of fans worldwide who love the Olympics and need them more than ever before as they look to them for diversion and inspiration. For me, I’ll look forward to the backstories of this year’s athletes and enjoy my memories of past Olympics vs. wishing that I could change the realities of today.

When Red first heard Black talking about the importance of "soft skills," she didn't even know what she was referring to, let alone that they would be important to her life. So, Black explained that it was a term used to describe intangible but essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communications, and conflict management.

Red, trying to be sarcastic, then asked if there was such a thing as “hard skills,” Black matter-of-factly told her those are tangible and technical skills such as computer skills.

Of course, Black couldn’t pass up an opportunity for sarcasm and explained that although there’s consensus about the importance of soft skills, there’s debate about what they should be called, with her favorite being the Texas Education Agency (TEA) calling them "21st Century Skills" – although she's old enough to remember they were important in the 20th Century, too.

But would anyone call them “Mom Skills”? Well, Red couldn’t help but remember the time Black told her, “Your job is every bit as demanding as a corporate position, and, in fact, you use many of the same skill sets.”Not something Red could ever have imagined, but it made sense once she better understood what soft skills are and how they are used. But then Black took it a step further,

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Red was your typical straight-A student, getting great grades starting in kindergarten straight through to graduating from college.(Black’s grades were less than stellar, plus she was a discipline problem – some things never change.) And then, excited and proud of herself, Red thought she was done. Black, on the other hand, thinks of education as something that never ends, and much to the chagrin of students, will tell them,

Homework never ends; it just is called “research” when you get older.

Over the last few years, Red has come around to Black’s way of thinking and realizes it’s a mindset. And that education is more than the classes you take in school.

September is when students of all ages are back in school, but it’s also National Literacy Month, which is about so much more than reading and writing. Literacy includes things like Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and even News Literacy. (As the linked Conversation Starters indicate, Red was the “poster child” of a highly educated person who lacked many of these basic literacy skills.)

So, we challenge you to find a topic that interests you or one you could benefit from learning (personally or professionally) and start doing your homework.

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For many of us, Labor Day marks the end of summer (temperatures aside), and as we switch from a summer holiday mindset back to the “real world”, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed.

You don’t need us to tell you how falling back into a work or school routine can be challenging, especially if you’re facing a backlog of tasks and responsibilities. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the “silly season” is just around the corner. (Red has been seeing Halloween decorations since mid-July, which means Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays aren’t far behind.)

But you don’t need us to tell you why you feel overwhelmed; you need help dealing with being overwhelmed.

When our new website goes live next year, one of the major sections will be THE DAILY HELP, where you’ll find easy-to-implement tools to get your day back on track and feel more in control.

But that doesn’t help you … NOW. So, here are a handful of our favorite posts to help you deal with daily challenges we all face. (Red admits that she picked the ones she felt she needed to reread.)

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