During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Kate Bailey wasn’t watching from her couch at home – she wasn’t even in America! Kate was in the midst of her year of service in Bogota, Colombia with WorldTeach. Check out her great outside perspective on this year’s Olympic games & Colombia’s own success. Thanks for sharing, Kate!


colombian medals


A Gringa’s Reflection on the Olympics

Did anyone else watch the Olympic closing ceremony last night? Colombia showed it live, 3pm our time, so we didn’t have to wait ’til 7pm (thanks non-NBC). Now, let me say right off the bat that I know the Olympics are controversial for a variety of reasons. But here I am, outside my home country, during one of the most patriotic world events we have. It’s different, watching on Colombian TV with Colombian commentators, etc. You see the US team portrayed differently, and, all eyes are actually not on us (except Michael Phelps, ALL eyes were on Phelps), but there seemed to be a bit more worldly perspective from here.


First thought- Colombia did amazing!


This was a record breaking year for Colombia! The athletes won EIGHT medals in total, surpassing their previous record of a mere THREE by more than double. They ranked 38th out of all countries and beating all other Latin American countries but Brasil and Cuba!


The sports are fairly unusual- weightlifting, Taekwondo, and wrestling makes Colombians seem more aggressive than I have seen here. The first medal, a silver in Cycling, makes total sense because the bike culture here is very strong. But my favorite athlete is obviously the gold medalist- Mariana Pajor. She won the gold for cycling- BMX. Yes, BMX. Step aside, Latina beauty queens, we have a new role model for girls to look up to! The only gold for the country, and three out of the eight medals, are brought home by the ladies!


Mariana Pajor- Gold medalist and my new favorite Colombian.

Mariana Pajor- Gold medalist and my new favorite Colombian.


Second thought- Let’s hear it for the girls!


While watching the women’s soccer final (yay US) I thought, “This is weird- Canada, Japan, and the US medaling… Where are the Latino and African countries? They are quite good at men’s soccer.” There’s a lot of debate as to the best approach to develop women’s rights and equality within a country politically and culturally. I may be a complete failure in the world of athleticism, but legislation like Title IX does make a difference, and things like females winning the only gold in Colombia are important milestones.Colombia has its strong share of gender inequality and machismo culture. But Mariana and the Colombian medalist for women’s wrestling are true role models for Colombian girls.


And of course on the home turf- For the first time in history, the U.S. women outnumbered the men for athletes and out-medaled them! And of course, this year was the first to have every country send a female athlete as a part of their team.


Sports are ingrained in our culture, and “breaking glass ceilings” there is a great step in the right direction.


Final thought- I’m okay with the US being #1


Yay for having the most medals! I doubt my friends would call me one of their most patriotic friends, but I am still super excited for the individual athlete’s stories and successes. I really wish we would lose the baret hat trend. And even the Colombian announcers talked about the uniforms being made in China during the Opening Ceremony. We have work to do with our reputation in the world, but being the best at sports is one reputation I can live with.


There are so many great individual stories that make the Olympians who they are, and that is the best part of the games. It was nice to hear the stories of the non-US rock stars just as much as the US ones. I’m glad I got to watch the games and am proud of my country and the world.


olym spice-girls-closing-ceremony


And then the Spice Girls performed, and all was good in the world again 🙂



Read more about Colombia

See all WorldTeach Blog posts