I am always rather melancholy when the Games come to an end. There is the intensity of the experience (at least for someone who watches them as consistently as I do) as well as, with this year, one or two events I would have much preferred seen the U.S. win. But these never quite explain the sadness I feel (because I always feel like I missed a lot of the Olympics once they are over anyway).
Generally, we can consider the two week event in and of itself. An intense experience that takes years to plan and build and prepare for. And, then, in an instant, they are gone. There is so much so quickly. The Olympics can be made to symbolize and represent much, but their brief intensity best represents our lives (if lived well?).
Beyond the event in and of itself, however we can consider how the Olympics intervene in our normal, everyday lives. I can speak here only for myself, and my instinct about myself, which could be wrong, is that the Olympics mark the passage of time on slightly larger scale than everyday life, but on a scale that is all too easy to mark. They happen every two years (did it affect me less when they were every four?), so when they end they remind me that it has been and will be two years between the games. Now, two years is not a huge amount of time, but it is not no amount of time either. It breaks up a life into just enough time to count as a lot, but just little enough to make it pass quickly. In two years I'll be out of high school. In two years I'll be graduating from college. In two years I'll have to have written a dissertation and have secured a job. In two years I'll need to have produced so many articles. In two years my son will be three years old (perhaps the most unbelievable, depressing, and exciting possibility). So much will have happened and will have to be done, but it will happen too damn fast. And thinking long enough in two year chunks can really start to eat a lifetime.
The Olympics, however, do a great deal with time. Host countries erect infrastructures for the games. Athletes work towards them through time and effort and practice. Fans commit incredible amounts of emotional energy in following and supporting the games and the athletes. The momentary status is no reason not to prepare and participate. So what I can take away from the Olympics and their momentous status is how they mark time and what they accomplish through it.