I'm one of those moms that doesn't allow a lot of TV as a general rule. The kids get about 45 minutes total most days while I'm throwing together supper - more than that and their personalities turn from happy little humans to cranky little zombies.
During the Olympics though all TV rules go out the window. See, we're not a "typical" Canadian family who watches hockey or follows baseball, football or basketball. Our sports of choice include things like cycling, running, hiking, skiing, and kayaking. Other than the Tour de France (which is, admittedly, another time we allow the TV to run pretty regularly in our home) our kids don't get to see many of these sports in a competition format and/or at the height of their skill level. And they certainly don't get to see success in those sports celebrated in a huge fashion.
Our culture tends to focus on the prime time sports and, while those are great too, they exclude a whole population of current and future athletes who aren't into big team sports. They have no heroes, they have no idea what a peak athlete in the field looks like, they don't know what success in the sport means, they may not know that the sport of their dreams even exists!
As a teenager I was on my school track team and my event was the 100 metre sprint. This was during the same time Ben Johnson was at the height of his career. He was my first athletic hero and I remember staying up until the wee hours of the morning to watch him race for gold live in Seoul. I still remember the exhilarating feeling when he won and knowing that the whole country was celebrating with me - in a sport that I loved but which usually got very little notice. And, yeah, yeah, it turned out he was on drugs, but that moment of joy will stay with me forever. (My second athletic hero was Lance Armstrong - let's not talk about the pattern that we see, okey dokey?)
I love that the Olympics exposes kids to sports outside of mainstream ones and shows them that individual sports can be exciting and fun to watch too. I think it also teaches them that whatever their athletic aspirations may end up being, there will be others who love that sport passionately too.
So turn on the Olympics, pay attention to the sports you haven't "noticed" much before and talk to your children about what ones they find interesting. You may find that you have a child with archery skills worthy of being the next Robin Hood on your hands, or a kid who dreams of flying over a bar using only a pole. Without the Olympics your child may never be exposed to these "fringe" sports that could bring them a lifetime of joy and active living.