Let’s talk about Olympic memories


The “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” might as well be Pavlov’s buzzer: As soon as it begins, it automatically triggers flashbacks to Olympiads of the past.

As a culture we have shared remembrance of familiar names and big events; as individuals we recall fantastic achievements in the sports we love best, and some of us still carry a bittersweet memory of our own childhood Olympic dreams.

I used to LOVE the Olympics and never missed it. I would eagerly watch almost every moment that was televised. Until the 1990s, I had a relatively small black and white TV, but I didn’t need the spectacle in color to get swept up in the drama of the personal stories and the patriotism of cheering for my country to win. In recent years I’ve pored over schedules, hoping to record my favorite individuals and teams, and searched on YouTube for video of performances I missed.

Any Olympics conversation always gets around to a handful of big moments the whole world noticed: the Black Power salute in 1968, Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 in 1976, “Do you believe in miracles?” in 1980, and Torvill and Dean’s “Bolero” in 1984.

I also have other memories of those same years that might not have stood out to anyone but me: My mom repeating the name “Jean.. Claude… Killy…” over and over in 1968, attempting to affect an authentic French accent (and failing delightfully); immense pride in the Black community over the phenomenal performance of the boxing team in 1976; women breaking record after record after record in the 1980 track and field competitions; and Harvard Stadium hosting some preliminary events for the 1984 Games, walking distance from my office.

Are you feeling excitement about the Tokyo 2020 Games? Have you been watching?

What are your favorite Olympic memories?

Are they the same highlights everyone seems to remember, or special only to you?

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