The Olympic Games are nearly upon us, and well, they could use a little good press. From accusations of government corruption, to performance-enhancing drugs to all manners of nastiness in the water at Guanabara Bay, some of the reports from host city Rio de Janeiro have been less than uplifting.
Yet, the world will soon look to Brazil in hopes of spectacle and inspiration—the qualities that have made the Games a sports juggernaut for the past half century and the impetus behind the inception of the modern Olympics in 1896. Because the Olympics deliver an amazingly diverse and fascinating program that transcends sports, with more than 10,000 athletes competing in 306 separate events, a global television audience in the hundreds of millions will certainly once again tune in to watch.
You should too, and not just for the running. The full track and field program (qualifying events begin on Aug. 12 and the men’s marathon on Aug. 21 is the Games’ last event) offers incredible displays of power, speed, agility and endurance. More medals are awarded on and inside the oval than in any other category of the Olympics.
Even the most diehard runner would be foolish to miss the full breadth of the Olympic contests. There are just too many great stories to be enjoyed, spread over 19 days of competition. From individual contests to team sports (soccer has the most athletes playing at the same time) and the largest to the smallest (in 2012, Iceland’s athletes were the tallest, Japan’s were the shortest), the Games bring humans of every size and shape together. Just one slip or stumble and it’s a four-year wait for redemption.
But here’s how the average runner can really benefit from watching other Olympic events. Trying to improve your concentration skills so you can hit your 5K goal? Watch a bit of archery and learn about the meditation skills required to post a top score. Have you been hitting the weights to improve the strength and flexibility of your runner’s physique? Watch in awe as an Olympic lifter snaps a bar loaded with twice his body weight overhead.
For Americans who are not making the trip to Rio, the main viewing platform will be NBC, which is devoting an unprecedented number of television hours to the Games. But, as this Wired magazine story reveals, a web-savvy viewer can also find myriad online options to soak up the action—including in virtual reality.
Not by coincidence, the biggest names and marquee events will be broadcast during primetime hours. Remember, though, for every Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt or Simone Biles that appears on your screen, there are dozens of equally inspirational athletes in Rio trying to bring home the hardware. There are more opportunities to watch them go for the gold than ever before, though you might have to stay up late or get up early to catch the action. That’s OK though—you’re a runner. An athlete.
Turn it on and tune in. You live for this stuff.