My opening statement is not a criticism. I like them much better now than when I was a kid. I was trying to explain to my 16 year old daughter how the Olympics were viewed when I was a kid, which was always, always through the lens of the Cold War. Us vs. Them. How many medals did the U.S. and its allies win vs. the Soviet Bloc? That's what I remember the most about the Olympics when I was a kid.
There was always outrage when our gymnasts were given really low scores by the Russian or East German judges. I remember how the men's basketball team was literally robbed of a gold medal by the officials by giving them not one "do over" at the very end of a game with a half court heave, but TWO "do overs." I remember the U.S. boycotting the Moscow Olympics because of their involvement in Afghanistan (and boy, in retrospect, do we look stupid now) and the Soviet Union and their allies boycotting the games in LA. I remember every once in while that we actually rooted for one of "their" athletes because they were so good, such as Nadia. And I most certainly remember the U.S. hockey team's "Miracle On Ice" at Lake Placid. I even have a hockey puck somewhere around here with a sticker of the U.S. hockey team on it when I saw them doing their warm ups by playing all the teams in the Central Hockey League way back when.
I am not sure my daughter could really get what I was saying. After all, she has no direct experience with anything like that. The Cold War is just something that happened back in the depths of time that she reads about in her history book.
I am certainly not saying there aren't political tensions in the world. But it is certainly nice that, for the most part, they don't manifest themselves in the Olympics anymore. The Olympic Games are not seen as some "proxy war" for who has the best ideology. And that's really a very positive development. I actually enjoy rooting for the Russians now and then.