By Paula Hendrickson
I am not a sports fan. Never have been, never will be. I remain immune to Olympic Fever. And unlike actual sports enthusiasts, the things I enjoy most about Olympics coverage are the pretaped segments about the host city, its culture, and the athletes.
How else would I ever know Simone Biles is just 4-foot-8, or that one of Kerri Walsh Jennings’ kids is named Sundance?
Sharing athletes’ stories and challenges with the audience is a great way to engage non-sports fans like me in The Games. Hearing what they’ve endured to make it to Rio raises the emotional stakes in the outcome of their particular competitions.
There’s another reason I may be tuning into these Summer Games a little more often than I usually would. Brazil.
When I was in grade school, we had a teenage foreign exchange student from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He lived with us for six months, and years after he went home, he returned with his wife and parents for a visit. We’ve stayed in touch – albeit sporadically at times – ever since.
In sixth grade we had to do reports and presentations on foreign countries, so, of course, I chose Brazil (Belgium was a close second, since my aunt, uncle, and cousins lived there at the time). It’s a fascinating country. It’s quite large, too.
Sure the Olympics are in Rio, not Salvador, and Rio is some 750 miles (by air) south-southwest of Salvador, but Luiz told me some soccer games are taking place in Salvador. Luiz and his wife were visiting family in Sao Paulo when he emailed saying they were watching the Brazilian soccer team playing Iraq at a stadium in Brasilia – which is over 900 miles north-northwest of Rio.
For the record, Rockford is closer to New Orleans than Brasilia is to Rio. That means we’ll be seeing a lot of Brazil throughout the Olympics, not just Rio and its iconic coastline.
There’s one more thing keeping me interested in the Olympics this time: the hysterical – and earnest – live tweets by SNL and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones (@lesdoggg on Twitter). Not only have her comments garnered plenty of likes, retweets, and new followers, NBC executives took notice and reportedly have invited Jones to Rio to try her hand as a commentator.
Now that’s Olympic coverage I can’t wait to see.
The 2016 Summer Olympics run through August 21. Olympics coverage is being televised on NBC and its cable networks, but even more events can be streamed online at nbcolympics.com/live-stream-schedule.