February 12th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

Why the Olympics matter

Robert A. Kaufman
Special to CNN

Ninety-seven nations will march in Vancouver tonight at the Opening Ceremony of the XXI Winter Olympic Games. Turn on your TV. Watch and cheer.

Cheer for the sportsmanship and spirit shown at this highest level of competition among the world's nations.

A fine example of this sportsmanship happened four years ago, when a ski pole, a race in Italy and maple syrup came together. It started when Norwegian cross-country ski coach Bjørnar Håkensmoen performed an extraordinary act.

On February 14, 2006, Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner began the women's team sprint competition in Turin with something to prove. After having placed no higher than eighth in four events at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, Renner was determined to improve her performance in Turin. But in the middle of the final heat, something terrible happened. One of her ski poles broke.

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