***Publication of this post was intentionally delayed significantly from time of writing as it brought several unseen advantages; if you don't know, you won't be told why, but the points still stand fairly even without full context***
I've taken a much more considerable and closer interest in the Rio 2016 Olympics than I did in the London 2012 ones - I pointedly and almost completely ignored the 2012 ones with a few minor exceptions.
I was, controversially, against London hosting the 2012 Olympics from the start - I remember specifically refusing to sign several petitions etc in the street when the country was trying to bid for it and demonstrate interest. I didn't think it was a good use of money, I didn't think it would do the things it said it would, I thought it would run over budget and cause massive disruption. Some friends I knew at the time who were involved in sports the UK considered minor at the time but were Olympic events did point out it would bring increased investment to their interests, and that was a very fair point that gave me pause. It did. Not as much as promised, or hoped for, and the interest has more often than not waned in the time since Summer 2012, but it was something. It also did force through many public works projects that were sorely needed, and would never have been progressed had it not been for the Olympic shadow driving them forward. Many friends have memories of the London 2012 Olympics that I do not and a small part of me regrets that I don't have those. I still, overall however, consider it a vast waste of money for the country. Participation in the Olympics is great; hosting it is generally folly in my completely-not-expert opinion. (See also here for a good primer on some of the many reasons I think the Olympics, and the IOC, are generally bad news for the hosts)
This year, several people I know were involved in Rio 2016 at various levels. Almost all of these are people I did not know 4 years ago. Some of them I have an especially huge amount of respect and admiration for - indeed we often disagree on many things but I have never had a conversation with them where I have not been overwhelmed by their compassion, intelligence, and perception. As a result, I have found myself watching these Olympics much more, across several events, and taking a keen and personal interest in the outcomes. And I've found myself enjoying them immensely.
I regularly identify as a gay sports fan. I shouldn't really - it somewhat self-promotes bi-erasure against myself, but no-one would care about the straight cis white male side of me that enjoys sports, that yells at the TV, that applauds and cheers good performance by athletes, that armchair coaches and curses judges and referees for calls I disagree with.
No, the bit that makes me 'weird', or notable, as a sports fan is the side of me that likes sex with boys, and so in terms of promoting visibility of interest, it is the gay sports fan side that is important to make known.
I've watched many many more events than I did for London across a broad spectrum; some where my interest was personal, some where it just happened to be what was on and entertaining that day. And I've loved it. And it further drives my consideration that whilst yes, at school I hated sports, I was ill in many ways, I had life-threatening asthma difficulties on a regular basis, I was short and small and bullied which does not make for a great team-sports player, it's more to do with the fact that I never got exposed to the right kind of sports at school, and this has a huge impact on how as a child you perceive sports.
I concede, it wouldn't have exactly been easy to get me exposure to the kind of sports I would have enjoyed - ice hockey, skiing, shooting, archery, mountain hiking, air-racing. These all require extensive, even prohibitive resources and are largely the luck of location making them available. There's also the difficulty of being able to take things at your own pace - partly something you only learn over time as you grow, but fundamentally something that doesn't lend itself to teaching a class of 30+ kids.
But as I've got older I've learnt that actually, I'm a MASSIVE sports fan. Not in football or rugby or tennis or anything traditional (certainly in the UK), but when I get into a sport it shines through in an utterly unmistakable way.
Part of this is understanding of the technical parts of the sport - its farrrrrr easier to maintain even a passing following of a sport you're not that interested in if you understand how the sport works, what is easy, what is difficult, what warrants and deserves applause against other things, and sports commentary is very complex, usually referencing a hundred different names of past participants, recent and near-ancient history of teams, performance, events etc. To an outsider its boring and impenetrable. And there is, unfortunately, pretty much no way to teach this barring sheer exposure. The speed and aggression of ice hockey was what caught my interest when I was a child, but it is 20 years of following it, supporting a team, reading game recap!s and scouting reports, watching plays and listening to the radio and having to imagine the action off the basis of it, that means I love ice-hockey, because I understand it. I like skiing because I can do it myself and I know what it demands of the body and mind; I admire the technical skill and physics at play in archery and so on.
Throughout these games I've been motivated to find out about the sports I've been watching, to learn how the sports work, and as a result, I've thoroughly enjoyed them. I now have even more sports to follow and keen a close eye on and that's GREAT. But I will never stop being slightly bewildered at how much I hated sports as a child, and how much that was a great shame, because the passion that comes with following sports is something that's quite unique, and not quite replicated by anything else.
Luckily, hockey season starts in a few weeks...
(There was of course, the abhorrent Nico Hines story of a straight man hunting down athletes on a gay sex app and then posting the sordid details of it as an 'article' online. I have skipped over this as, although from a gay sports perspective its the obvious major thing that occurred in Rio, it has been covered plenty enough by the internet, and I have no wish to drag it all back up again here; it's not relevant to the points I was making.)