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The past couple of days I’ve been doing some traveling outside of London, and I can definitely tell you the Olympic spirit is just not the same. I spent about four days in France while of some of the most exciting Olympic events where going on including the Men’s 100m Final, yet I completely forgot about the games. There was no excessive number of French flags, and I didn’t see an average television with the Olympics on anywhere.
In fact the only sign of the Olympics was in one square I came upon. Set among the gorgeous Parisian architecture was a kind of summer getaway — a giant screen with the games on, Notre-Dame in the background and people relaxing on giant pillows under palm trees watching the Olympics. There were even mini red telephone booths as if a mini London had transported to Paris. I had spent two full days there and hadn’t managed to see anything Olympics related at all, so to come upon this was so shocking. The way it was presented it seemed as if it was a gift or an advertisement for Great Britain. All of the modern banners hanging from these prominent eye-catching buildings had some form of the statement “This is Great” in large letters with “Britain” directly below that in a very small font that was barely legible.
Other than this square Paris seemed to be experiencing just an average summer…or as average as you can get in Paris.
Currently, I’m in Ireland. And in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve learned the importance of boxing in Ireland’s culture — and that it’s one of their best sports in the Olympics. The first conversation I had with an Irish taxi driver was about the Olympics and how Ireland had just won gold in the women’s boxing. This was a big deal not only because Ireland won, but because the winner, Katie Taylor, was the first woman ever to win a gold medal in Olympic boxing. The next morning her face was on every paper at the newsstand.
The men’s boxing has been on the past two days, and it’s clear that pub culture provides the perfect environment for watching the matches — or any T.V. for that matter. In a Dublin train station my mom and I were the only people moving as groups of people stood around two different televisions staring up at the match. I had never seen such an extreme standstill for a sport in my life. I almost felt rude that I wasn’t stopping to watch with them.
It’s clear that different countries have different ways of showing spirit for their country, and I’m fortunate enough to have experienced that spirit in three different countries. None of them my own but, nonetheless, I think the way a country embraces the Olympics says a lot about their pride and competitive nature. In a few days I’ll be going back to London and the games will be over. It’ll be interesting to see if the exciting, contagious spirit is still going strong or if it has faded after about 2 1/2 weeks of the Olympics.
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