POST-OLYMPIC DEPRESSION: the feeling of sadness after the flame has been extinguished

LP torchThe noise, the crowds, the excitement, the food, the drinks, the music, the awards ceremonies, TV trucks from all over the world, interviews on every corner, and personalities willing to sign autographs. It is magical.   It is the Olympics.

But then comes the hard part.  A closing ceremony, the passing of the Olympic flag to the next site.  And then the flame is extinguished on the huge torch that stands above the crowd.   The Olympics is over.

What follows for those who have been emotionally invested in the Olympics is depression.  In fact, there is even a name for it:  Post-Olympic Depression.   It is a phenomenon that is not unique to Olympic games, but it is clearly one which affects people all over the world, particularly in the country where the events have been hosted.

We attended the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.   We took our kids out of school and we invited our good friends to join us in our summer  home near the foot of Whiteface Mountain where the downhill races took place.   We were there for the opening exercises and we were there everyday through the last day of competition.   It was necessary for us to leave on the last day, so we listened on the car radio to the final game of the hockey championships, still reveling in the victory over Russia in the semi-finals.

And then it was over.   Our kids were back in school.  We were back at work.   We slept in our home beds, ate at our kitchen table, and used our familiar showers.   And we were depressed.

It is a huge let-down when it’s all over.   The months and months of build-up to the event, and then the thrill of being there throughout.  It made it seem as if the Olympics were our new way of life and would go on forever.  But they didn’t.   And we had to adjust back to normal life.   We heard the reports on TV of the final tally of scores and we watched the clips of the closing ceremony on the news programs.  We read the newspapers and absorbed the reactions and the political implications of the victories and the losses.  But the feeling was gone.   It was all just news broadcasts.

Every time we go back to Lake Placid (frequently) we feel the return of the thrill of having been there.  But it is sad to drive by the site of the Olympic Stadium and see the flame tower standing there in the midst of the place where the annual Lake Placid Horse Show takes place now.   The Olympic posters and photos in the storefronts on Main Street are yellowing and the TV in one store window which plays the clips on rewind doesn’t catch our attention any more.  We’ve driven to the top of the ski jumps, attended events at the skating rink, and even walked the speed skating oval.   Our favorite restaurant during the Olympics which featured white walls on which the athletes and TV personalities had signed autographs has been sold…and torn down.  The unique facility where one of the teams gathered is now a bicycle shop.

Ever couple of years there is a new experience which grabs our attention, but it’s not the same.  A couple of them have featured friends competing for medals which drew our attention and enthusiasm.  But this particular Olympic event didn’t excite us as much as others have.   Oh, we’re excited about the successes of the USA teams, but not in the same way.  There is still a sense of Post-Olympic Depression.  Are we just that much older, or that much further away from the Olympic village? Are the politics of this 2014 Olympics getting in the way?

Or is it just hard to re-capture the thrill we experienced those 34 years ago in Lake Placid?  One story in the news reported that the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid was “quaint.”   It was.  The village of 2,700 people, tucked away in the middle of the Adirondacks where it was a chore to get there, was special.   The town shut down traffic on Main Street and turned it into a walking venue, where it was ordinary to stop and talk with the Russians, Norwegians, French, Italian, and even Jamaican athletes at will.   For two weeks it was a magical, Disney-like existence.   And there was nary a thought about guns or bombs. That’s hard to replicate.

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Photo Credit:  russel a considine

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