Patriot love

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As the Olympics came to a close last weekend, I started thinking about what it all meant. Specifically, I thought about the emotions that the games elicit and whether or not they’re significant. Why do people obsess over the Olympics?

With Team Canada’s exhilarating victories in both men and women’s hockey, it seemed as though every Canadian watching here at home felt at least a little bit of excitement.

But beyond the excitement one feels when watching an action movie, the Olympics seemed to inspire a kind of patriotism — a sense of immense national pride. When the athletes emerged during the opening ceremonies in Sochi, the Olympic Games suddenly acquired significance beyond that of athletic competition. The games became an outlet of patriotic fervour for people around the world.

These emotions aren’t difficult to explain. People feel as though the athletes who represent their country are in some way “one of them”. Even athletes who aren’t well-known prior to the games are revered and placed on a pedestal as representatives of the country. We seem to share an identity.

These emotions can even be explained from a physiological point of view: studies show that watching someone excel at a sport triggers a release of hormones similar those that are released while actually participating in the sport.

One fact that I’m less sure of is the authenticity of the pride people feel for their country. Will this patriotism endure beyond the short two weeks of the Olympics or does it subside quickly once the games are over? Will Canadians years from now remember our Olympic success with pride or will it all be forgotten?

While for some, it may be the latter, I prefer to think that for most people, the Olympics serve more as a reinforcement of a national pride that’s rooted in something much more enduring than the two weeks of competition.

Essentially, the athletes and the medals they win are a tangible reminder of our drive to succeed.

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