Thursday, July 26, 2012

Olympic Pins Bring Cultures Together

This is my Olympic pin collection - all five of them.  It's small but memorable for me.  I picked these up as a teenager during the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY.  If you've never been to an Olympics, you may not be familiar with the pin trading craze that goes on between events, for athletes and spectators.  I read online (so it must be true) that pin trading started at the 1894 Athens Olympics, but didn't really become popular until the early 1900's.

I've written about my connection to the Olympics in an earlier blog, Chariots of Fire.   When the world's best winter athletes came to Lake Placid, I was just nine miles away in Saranac Lake. It was an incredibly exciting time to be in the Adirondacks. Many of us were hosting visitors from around the world in our homes, our churches, and our community centers.  Local kids like myself were frequently given pins by visitors to get us started on collecting and trading.

The Associated Press shares this YouTube video from the 2008 Olympics about pin trading.  I love the comment by the one woman about how this activity brings people together from around the globe.  The pins start the dialogue and connect people through their shared interest.  Those who travel regularly to the Olympics can share wonderful stories about the people they've met as a result of this hobby.  Even as the globe shrinks due to technology, there's still something special about meeting someone from another continent in person and interacting face-to-face.     

As people are now gathered in London for the 2012 Summer Games, I think about all the introductions that will be made possible because of pin trading.  People will work to communicate despite language barriers and cultural differences.  There will be lots of smiles and pointing, nodding of heads, shaking of hands, and laughter.  And yes, technology will help with translating devices.  What a wonderful way for the world to come together as one community, even as each person roots for their national team. 

I'll be cheering for Team USA and Communications World.

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