Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympic Fever...No One is Catching It

The Olympics officially start on Friday (We'll just ignore the fact that the American Women Soccer team lost to Norway 2-0 today....Way to give up two goals in the first five minutes Hope Solo...awesome).
And yet, I don't really know anyone who is really excited about this.

The Olympics are the pinnacle of world competition. It is a chance for athletes from Sudan, for example, to compete against their peers from Nicaragua. It used to be that the world looked at the games and said, "Where else can you truly see athletes of the highest caliber competing against one another.

When the 2000 Olympics were approaching, I was extremely excited. The idea of the competition, the manners the countries show each other, and the good nature and good will from everyone just seemed to be flowing. I watched the opening ceremonies live (though part of this was due to knowing several members of the stage crew and design team). For the first few days, I watched almost every event televised. I cheered for Ian Thorpe, though I really wanted him to lose and wanted my country to come out on top. I wanted to hear the American National Anthem and see my fellow countrymen and countrywomen crying at the spectacle. I wanted a scene not unlike Derek Redmond's, where his dad came running out of the crowd, shoved the security guy out of the way, and helped his son finish the race (all of this at the 1992 Olympics).
(See the video here. It's amazing to see.)

Or even to have an athlete do what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did at the 1968 Olympics (although no one ever talks about how Australian Peter Norman was sympathetic and helped them...though the two men were pallbearers at his funeral).

And yet, by end of those Olympics, something became clear: it was no longer a celebration of humanity's best offerings to athletics. It was a giant corporate shill. Logos proudly blazoned where every television camera could catch them. Athletes winning a medal and immediately doing a commercial. It was heartbreaking to watch, because it no longer meant that the world was competing for bragging rights, it was for dollars.

2002 came, and I was excited for Salt Lake City. However, I was an extremely vocal about how angry I was when it came to moving the Winter Games so the Winter and Summer games no longer fell in the same years. It was obviously a money issue.

As it was post 9/11 and happening in America, there was a great deal of emotion for me and many other Americans. I nearly teared up when NBC showed the first American gold medal presentation...until I started really looking at how NBC was trying to get us to cry. The way they shot the scenes, the way they had the commentators constantly bring up the tragedy. Again, instead of marketing a product, now they were marketing an event as the way to heal America.

It didn't work. I lost interest in those games.

The Summer Olympics returned home in 2004, but I had no real interest aside from laughing at the horrible mascot that was quite penis-like. Sure, I saw the Track and Field (as a kid, I loved watching Daley Thompson), but with the televised presentation, it soon became too hard to watch. Again, the networks blew every little thing up...and then it went online.

The world has changed quite drastically since the last summer Olympics, and I believe I know why so many people are not excited for these games.

First and foremost: we no longer trust our athletes.

Too many people are coming forward and admitting doping, cheating, and lying about it.

The men's 1,600 meter relay team lost their gold medals because Antonio Pettigrew admitted to doping and cheating. That's six medals now that the United States has lost from that Olympics.

On top of that, the swimmers are being accused of "Technological Doping" for their new body suits.

So the bottom line is: we can't trust them. If an athlete breaks a record, instead of celebrating the achievement, the world will wonder, "Did he/she dope up? Did he/she cheat? Is this legit?"

The second reason is the place the Olympics are being held. A large portion of the world doesn't really like China. As the torch rounded the world, Pro-Tibet protesters did everything they could to demonstrate their anger and frustration. And now, the first protest banners have appeared outside the Olympic Stadium in Beijing.
Add to that the human rights violations, the worry that athletes have about the air, and the last minute decree to remove all dog meat, and you have a potentially volatile situation.
Personally, I find it fascinating that a blanket law was made two years ago against spitting.
The final piece are the games themselves. There are several events that don't really belong in the Olympics. Most people (and most video game makers) hit the events that we actually care about and think of when we think of the Olympics:
Track and Field (such as dashes, relays, Pole Vault, etc)
Swimming
Diving
Fencing
Archery
Gymnastics (Go little Kerri Strug!)
Judo and Wrestling
These are the sports we think of and enjoy. Yet, there are so many more events, and they are done, in some ways, poorly.
Baseball? Is Baseball really worthy of the Olympics? And look at what they are doing to make sure games don't go very long: if the game is tied in the 11th inning, teams will start with a runner on 1st and 2nd with no outs. The teams can also choose who from where in the order they will start batting (meaning you can put your leadoff and number two hitter on base and start with the heart of the order). Come on. That's incredibly lame.
Other sports that don't really deserve to be called Olympic (in my opinion):
Soccer (Football). You have the World Cup and so many teams. It shouldn't be in the Olympics.
Softball. See baseball.
Field Hockey. What? This is another sport that seems insane to compete on the Olympic level. I know some gals who played field hockey, and they think it's insane.
Handball. Oh come on. Now we're just filling in for more athletes to help the host city get more money.
Basketball. This is a farce on many levels. The American team used to be almost solely college kids. Now we send the best of the best...and they don't mesh...and they lose.... This needs to be removed as well.
Sailing. I don't know where to begin.
Look, I get that the host city needs to make back a ton of money, and that over the course of the last few Olympics, the host cities have lost a great deal of money, but there are too many sports that very few people worldwide want to watch. We love to see the volleyball, we love to see the badminton (fast action), but how can you make sailing exciting for kids watching?
Here's what needs to happen: get it down to fewer events.
Yes, we want Track and Field.
Yes, we want Diving and Swimming.
Yes, we want the Weight Lifting
Just cut out the boring and unnecessary events.
Of course the way the Olympics are heading, maybe we should just have the All Drug Olympics.



And I could be wrong. Maybe, outside of the families of the athletes, there are people totally salavating about Friday and the following 15 days...besides Bud Greenspan. I just haven't heard anyone say it or show any enthusiasm for the games.

Of course, I'm doping to write this blog...you know...steroids and all. I could be wrong.

1 comment:

Johnson said...

One day, they will have drugs that will boost your intellect, but in reality, they will strip us of our individuality and creativity by making us all the same.