One of the biggest events of the summer was the 2016 Rio Olympics. After months of hype and excitement, billions of viewers come together to watch athletes from around the world compete to achieve a medal. Nestled among those thousands of athletes sent to the games were 8 UCI Anteaters. I didn’t even know until I happened across it on Facebook, the lack of advertisement was shocking. Just like there is a sense of patriotism and nationalism while the games go on, on a more micro level, there is a unity and surge in school spirit that UCI seems to lack during the games which other schools embrace.
UCI posted an online congratulations and urged students to follow the athletes’ journeys on social media, but no one was making a big fuss. UCI sent the most athletes by a Big West school and the third most by a UC. Not only that, less than 1% of the world population qualifies for the games and UCI sent 6 athletes and 2 coaches. While that may not be the 44 that USC sent to Rio, it is still an impressive number. In addition, the Anteaters were not just representing the United States, but we also had athlete representing France and Ghana.
As the games went on, every once in awhile the broadcast would cut to a live feed from a university where one of their athletes was competing in the event. Students were coming together to cheer and support their peers competing. There were large viewing parties and students painted in their school colors as they watched from the gym, screaming for their classmate to jump farther, run faster and swim better.
Despite dominating in water polo and volleyball, UCI athletics is not used as a huge selling point for the school. When I went on my campus tour as a freshman, the only time my tour guide mentioned athletics was to say that sometimes Kobe Bryant used our facilities for training. UCI pride and school spirit is highly encouraged during orientation where the Zot chant is first taught, yet it seems to fade in enthusiasm as time goes on.
From my experience going to home games, they are mainly supported by Greek life attendance, alumnus, or community members instead of current students. Our spirit squad does their best to try and excite the crowd but the empty seats and the lukewarm reception at some of the game can be disappointing.
I’m not sure if it is because our school doesn’t have a football team, which historically brings out a school’s team spirit the most, or because it was summer and not many students were on campus at the time but the absence of encouragement and support for our athletes at Rio was disheartening. I will certainly do my part to support UCI athletics more in the coming year and be there to cheer them on in 2020.
Caitlin Antonios is a second year English and Literary Journalism double major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.