I always find the end of the Olympic Games to be a little sad. For a little while we are reminded of what a human being can achieve from an athletic (and perhaps an artistic) perspective. The performance envelope is pushed a little further at each new Olympic Games. Memories are made for athletes, coaches, family, friends, and spectators. Athletic glory is won. Medal-winning performances are celebrated (unless more was expected) and disappointing outcomes mourned. For a little while, the world is united by a love of sport. Then the closing ceremony inevitably arrives. The young people of the world are invited to assemble again in the future to compete at the host city of the next scheduled Games. The flame is extinguished and we are left to await the next Olympic Games.
An Olympic athlete has sacrificed so much in pursuit of their athletic goals (of course, their families and friends have borne their share of sacrifice as well). For a few weeks the blood, sweat, and tears that went into becoming an Olympic athlete are behind them and now their abilities and skills are on display for the world to see and admire. While it doesn’t always work out as an athlete might hope it would, the athlete has the opportunity to perform on arguably the biggest stage in sports. For some of the athletes, this will be their swan song. They will retire and will likely look back on their Olympic Games appearance(s) as the high-water mark(s) of their athletic career. For others, training will soon resume and they will continue to prepare themselves for future competitions, including perhaps another Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games as an institution, and the world events that surround them, are not always perfect. Allegations of corruption, the outbreak or continuation of world conflict, instances of human rights violations, and usage of illicit performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are some of the low lights that may shine around and during these spectacles. But the competitions themselves represent something pure — a love of sport and competition. That moment when the world is united by a love of sport and competition is what I miss when the Olympic Games are over and what saddens me when the closing ceremonies conclude. That and the knowledge that I have a finite number of Olympic Games in my future.