Winter Olympians are not usually household names like other American mainstream athletes.
For some that is reason to watch, while others feel out of the loop when it comes to the Winter Olympics.
An Ottawa University official and former college coach and athlete is excited to watch the Winter Olympics as much as possible with his family, he said. Tom Taldo, OU associate director of athletics, said what he likes about the Winter Games is the athletes and events are not well known.
“There are a lot of sports there that are not followed regularly in the United States,” he said. “It shines a light on those particular disciplines. Those people work so incredibly hard at [those events]. It is fun to see them highlighted and learn about their stories.”
Carol Finch, Ottawa High School athletic secretary, does not expect to watch much of the 23rd Winter Olympics, hosted by Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“I don’t pay attention to the Winter Olympics,” she said. “I am not really a sports person. I would do it because it is the American thing to do.”
Larry Fisher, a retired City of Ottawa employee, said he will tune in to watch events such as the luge, skiing and bobsledding.
“I will watch if it is an event I like and if I am [at home] at the time,” he said. “I like fast-paced [events]. Over the years, I have gotten away from following it. I don’t know if I will record any of it.”
The South Korea Games kicked off today with a couple of events, but the official start is Friday night with the opening ceremonies and runs through Feb. 25. Team USA will sport 242 athletes — the largest U.S. team at a Winter Olympics.
Attitudes were apathetic toward the Olympics Wednesday afternoon in the Ottawa University cafeteria, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa.
“I’ll occasionally tune into a sporting broadcast, but winter sports have never really been my thing,” Clayton Oberg, a third-year music student, said. “There are a couple of summer Olympic events, like archery, that I’ll watch, but I don’t have as much interest in winter sports. I’ll probably be watching anime instead.”
Other students said they’ll likely be watching other content on a streaming service.
“I’m not planning to watch, I don’t really know any of the sports of the Winter Olympics,” Megan Cubison, an Ottawa University first-year lacrosse player, said. “I’ll be watching something on Netflix, probably.”
One student will be tuning in, but for a very specific purpose.
“I’ll probably only watch it to see Lindsey Vonn compete,” Rodney Latham, an OU junior football player, said. Vonn, an American downhill skier, will compete at the Games without teammate and close friend Jacqueline Wiles, who suffered a compound leg fracture on Saturday.
Melanie Lamar, Ottawa native, said the Olympics is all about patriotism. She said it is nice to see Americans stand behind the athletes during the Games.
“They represent Team USA,” she said. “It should unify us. We all need to play on the same team. It is always neat to see us come together as one group.”
The Olympics unites Americans through athletics, Taldo said.
“In the greater scope of the United States, we are so divided in regards to politics,” Taldo said. “It will be nice to be able to sit down and all be together. It is a great unifier for three or four hours in an evening.”
Taldo and Lamar said for the next two weeks the Olympics is something the whole family can watch together. Lamar, who has two teenage children, said that is a difficult thing to accomplish for families in this age of cable and satellite television.
Taldo said this will be a learning experience for his children.
“We are excited for our kids,” he said. “It will be the first time they will be able to understand the Olympics. What we teach our kids is hard work pays off. Hard work and determination will take you far in life. Sports is not the only avenue to do that in, but it is the best classroom out there. It shows the ups and downs of the world. That is why I coached football for so long. You learn a tremendous amount of life skills.”
Each Olympiad has its own flavor because of the different host countries, Lamar said.
“They represent their culture a lot,” she said. “It is neat to experience those. I don’t travel to those places. Sometimes we see something that we had not seen before that is interesting.”
Fisher said pride in their country is big in the Olympics.
“No matter what I root for the U.S.,” he said. “I keep track of the medals.”
Lamar likes the emotions the Olympics brings out in the competitors and it rubs off on her during the medal ceremonies.
“I think it is amazing,” she said. “I always think it is moving when the flag comes up [of the winning country].”
Fisher said world politics is something to be aware of during any Olympics.
“I am afraid of the political aspect of it being in Korea,” he said. “The athletes right now — being where they are at — it could be a political ploy. That has bothered me. It is the tensions. We know how they feel about us, but not other countries.”
Fisher remembers being in Germany during the 1972 Summer Olympics when the Israeli Olympians were killed, he said.
“That was a shock,” he said. “This is a good set up for the same thing.”