Every two years, nations around the world gather their most impressive athletes and send them to a competition in which they will be pitted against similar athletes from around the world in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games, held every two years alternating between the summer games and the winter games, test the strength, speed, agility and overall athletic prowess of roughly 200 countries from around the globe. And every two years, millions of people around the world tune in to watch their home country compete with a sense of pride.
If you need proof of the wide appeal of the Olympics, consider the fact that the 2012 Olympic Games in London were the most watched event in television history, with almost 220 million people in America alone tuning in. The total population of America is roughly 319 million, meaning almost 70 percent of people in America watched at least some of the games.
Compare this to the viewership of other large-scale sporting events. The average World Series game last year drew about 17 million viewers. The NBA Finals Game Seven, one of the most exciting and highly anticipated basketball games of the year was watched by about 27 million people. Neither baseball nor basketball is nearly as popular as football’s championship in America, though. Easily the biggest annual sporting event in America, the Super Bowl drew about 115 million American eyes in 2016. An estimated 65 percent of women and about 45 percent of men watch the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials, meaning the interest in the actual sporting event isn’t nearly as high as the numbers suggest.
But without a huge focus on commercials, a large amount of leadup to the event or rapid team-to-team fans, the Olympics in 2012 managed to draw almost twice the audience within the United States alone. That is saying something about the pride that comes with watching your country compete on the largest scale.
For many viewers, the Olympics aren’t about watching a basketball game or a football match or the 400-meter hurdles. They’re not even about seeing athletes dunk, watching 7-0 football (soccer) blowouts or expecting perfect 10s on the horizontal bar. They’re about watching your country–your home, the place where your pride, your allegiance and your family resides–compete against others.
There is a sense of pride and absolute ecstasy when your favorite team wins its championship. A part of us considers ourselves part of the team, the reason that fans often say things like “we won the game last night,” or “we made a big trade.” That sense of “we” is what binds us together as fans. It gives a sense of camaraderie amongst not only our fellow fan,but with the team. There is a connection that is almost palpable that drives fandom from its core.
Now imagine that on a national level. Whether you’re French, American, Nigerian or can trace your lineage back to any of the 204 countries represented by National Olympic Committees, the 2016 Rio Olympics should be a source of pride and, hopefully some gold medals.