Aug. 3, 2016
Zika, polluted water, missing athletes, crime, bad lodging, doping scandals…yikes, that really doesn’t sound good. With the entire world tuning in to watch the 2016 Olympic Games this Friday, the host city of Rio de Janeiro has its hands full. While every host city has dealt with problems, it seems that Rio has an over abundance. No question about it – this year’s Games could be a disaster.
Yet there is also no question of whether I’ll be watching. I’m a bit of an Olympics junkie. I was never an athlete, no one in my family has ever competed for a medal, but ever since I was a kid I’ve been enthralled with the entire spectacle. I won’t be watching to see what problems arise in Brazil, but to see the spirit of competition, the camaraderie of athletes from around the world, the tears of joy on the podiums and the display of incredible skill.
The very idea that diverse nations can come together in sport always gives me hope for more peaceful tomorrows. While I cheer for Americans, I also cheer for the inevitable lone athlete carrying their flag for some small country and the underdog who finishes last but to cheers from spectators. This year, I’ll be cheering for the team made up of refugees who’ve faced more heartache than I can imagine but will compete just the same.
Sherri Henry, who teaches introductory and international business courses for the Broad College of Business, might also be a bit of an Olympic junkie, but on a much more academic level. She leads a summer study abroad program, “Business of the Olympics: Olympic Venues Explored.” She’s got some pretty cool insights into the complexities behind the business operations of the Olympic Games. Check out the FACULTY VOICE: The business of the Olympics, to find out her answers to some really interesting questions.
While Brandi Scarber, a junior journalism student from Detroit, wasn’t part of Henry’s study abroad course, she was did spend part of her summer studying different cultures and sports. She was part of the first study abroad class studying sports journalism in Paris and Rome. Part of the experience included a tour through the facilities for the Rome 2024 Olympic Bid. She says, “This trip forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me learn how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and she relishes the opportunity she was given. Read her STUDENT VIEW: My journey through Europe, to learn more about her experience.
I’ll be watching the Olympics from my couch rather than from the stands, but I did get to visit Brazil once – for all of about 36 hours. I was there with some colleagues covering an MSU research story about deforestation. We were in the town of Campinas for such a short time I barely feel like I was there. But even in that short time I got to explore another culture, hear a different language, meet new people and eat some pretty great empanadas. (Travel, for me, is often about the food.) The beautiful photo above was taken by my colleague, Kurt, and captures the spirit and joy of the people we found there. I hope Olympic guests can see through any problems and find the same warmth and joy that we did.
The great thing about being a Spartan is you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to explore the world. Any student can widen their horizons by taking a study abroad course. With more than 275 programs in more than 60 countries around the globe, there’s definitely something for everyone. Brandi is also a student intern in my office. I can’t tell you how much I loved hearing how much she learned from her trip and how grateful she is to be a Spartan because of the opportunity it offered her. Spartans are all about exploring the world and figuring out how to make it better. If they awarded medals for that, Spartans would win the gold every time.
Photo of a woman in Campinas, Brazil by Kurt Stepnitz