Summer Vacation Gold

 “On your marks… get set…. GO!”, my dad barked from the side of the pool. It was the summer of 1984 and the Olympics were in full swing. My brother and I were in an epic battle for the gold, not in Los Angeles but rather a motel pool at Rockaway Beach. The race must have been the 20 foot freestyle because neither of us could stick to one stroke.
At least a couple of times our summer vacations lined up with the games and some of my favorite memories from those trips were staying up with my dad watching the games after my mother and brother had fallen asleep. The diving was my favorite but it didn’t matter what was on, we watched until the National Anthem played signaling the end of the days broadcast. 
Today my wife and I are the ones glued to the TV as the athletes compete to bring home the gold. I can’t really think of the last time we took a full-fledged family vacation but every four years we look forward to the start of the games. The same was true this year, then the headlines began to fill with all the issues the poor people of Rio were having getting their games to the starting line, it was almost as if their car had broken down the night before they were taking off for the lake.   
At least that’s how I see it. To me the Olympics are a lot like summer vacations. There are only a couple reasons people take a vacation and that a country would want to host the Olympics. Both really boil down to status and memories. Let me explain. 
Vacations are basically memory makers. No matter what trials the trip faces, a few years pass and all the fighting and flat tires are forgotten. Suddenly everyone is like, “Remember the summer we went to the Hoover Dam that was the best!” And there are so many good dam pictures. The Olympics is the exact same thing. What’s that Vlad, you have no snow on the ski slopes and you shot a bunch of stray dogs? Two years later and no one even cares, 20 years from now Sochi still has signs proclaiming it “Host of the 2014 Puttin Olympic Games”. As far as that comparison goes it would seem that Rio is the Clark Griswold of the Olympics and it doesn’t matter if Aunt Edna just died in the back seat, there is no stopping until they reach Walley World. But don’t worry the highlight reel will be great. 
You need look no further than your Facebook feed to see how the good old family vacation is all about status. I bet if you go through the last 20 post you’ll see at least one sandy beach or glistening lake pic collage. I get it, they are just capturing memories and sharing their joy but even if they don’t realize it they are also saying, ‘Hey you! I know you haven’t taken your family on vacation for years but look at the fabulous time we are having.’ Countries do the same thing. In fact Rio placed the bid for these games back in 2008 when their economy was booming. It was a means to let other countries know that Brazil had come of age. Unfortunately it ended up being a lot like a guy buying tickets to take his family on a cruise the day before getting laid off. They have the Olympic trip bought and paid for, but what comes after it’s over? 
Both also share an escalating cost with very little return on investment, at least financially. Current estimates show that a summer vacation for a family of four averages $4,500. I’m not sure what the cost was for that motel in South Missouri or the horse rides but I am pretty sure it was less than a quarter of that present day estimate. Much the same the Los Angeles Olympics cost an estimated $1 billion while Rio is expected to come in at $28 billion. That is a lot of money for some memories and a little status. 
So why are the Olympics and vacations still around? I think it is because they are also the things of dreams. Some kids dream of going to Disney, while others dream of winning a medal. Possibly that me in the pool all those decades ago thought he had a chance to compete on the world’s stage. That didn’t work out but a little bit of that feeling is rekindled every time I watch the athletes compete because I know that they have spent a lifetime training for a two week shot at glory.
Maybe the Sheehans should take a family vacation this year…. on second thought, you’re right, we probably need to replace the central air unit first.

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