Olympics don’t impress me much these days. Actually… they haven’t
impressed me much in a few years.
might need a better word though. Impressed isn’t quite right.
It’s the excitement… the anticipation… they’ve kind of become
a shoulder shrug of “well, there’s nothing else on” event for
are good that the last time I really felt some sort of enthusiasm
for them was during Atlanta or Sydney years of the Summer Games.
(Winter Games? Geez… the fact that I can’t come up with a year
or location should speak volumes.)
part of it is how many of the athletes being showcased are honestly
severely spoiled athletes that are making millions upon millions
of dollars with the amateur portion of the equation lost long
ago… another part is that holding the Olympics is a joke, with
almost every host city abandoning venues and allowing them to
crumble while never realizing financial benefits… the International
Olympic Committee is an even bigger joke… and the media drives
home whatever stories they think will provide a ratings jump.
a certain extent, we shouldn’t be stunned about what NBC provides
to American audiences. Of course the majority of us want to see
Women’s Gymnastics and Women’s Figure Skating and Michael Phelps
potentially swimming his final competitive laps.
to be fair, between the main network and the sister-stations NBC
has, the coverage options are pretty good. Even if you aren’t
looking for the headline making events, there is enough diversity
(especially during the summer games) to create a bit of interest
for anyone that enjoys sports.
the part that has me watching during the day. I actually look
for the curling coverage. And now, I’m enjoying Rugby Sevens and
Water Polo and other events that I find far more entertaining
than Hope Solo throwing a pampered brat hissy fit because she
realities are simple enough though… the growing recognition that
hosting the Olympics isn’t worth it, where holding a public bonfire
to burn billions of dollars would prove a far more sound investment…
the cheating and doping and sense of entitlement from many athletes
(often more than tolerated, and justthisshortof virtually sanctioned
and encouraged by countries)… and the list goes on.
not that I don’t care about the Olympics. Instead, in many cases
my frustrations come from how warped things have become. They’re
slick and polished and packaged and served up in sound bites and
attention grabbing blurbs. We’re told what to like and who to
be proud of and why something is shameful and how to react.
I really enjoy are the stories that aren’t created or forced upon
country of Fiji won its first Olympic medal in these 2016 games.
They took home a gold in Rugby Sevens. Fiji is a world powerhouse
in the sport. Rio is the first time it has been held as an Olympic
event. Six decades, the country has been represented in many Summer
and Winter competitions, and no medals until now.
there’s Yusra Mardini. She left Syria because of the civil war
taking place, and is competing as a swimmer without a designated
country under the Olympic flag. As part of her escape from Syria
and travels to Germany, she was on a boat in the Aegean Sea. According
to reports I’ve read, the boat was loaded with far more people
than it should have been carrying, the motor died and the boat
began to sink. So, Mardini and a few others got into the water
and swam… swam while pushing the boat for over three hours to
love learning about stories like these. They show true moments
of incredible human accomplishment. And, unfortunately, for the
most part the Olympics long ago left that aspect behind.
the Greg Louganis documentary Back on Board was on television.
I saw the entire thing a while ago, and I watched part of it again.
If you haven’t seen it… check it out. It’s amazing how twisted
and difficult sorting out the Olympics actually can be.
of the greatest Olympians of all time… one of the greatest American
athletes of all time… in so many ways pushed aside because of
perception and marketing concerns. (Yes, they point out he never
got a Wheaties box… which actually changed when Wheaties and parent
company General Mills responded to criticism and petitions and
created a legacy series of boxes featuring Louganis, Edwin Moses
and Janet Evans.)
yet, as the documentary equally showed, Louganis dearly wanted
to be involved and asked to contribute to the U.S. team again.
At one point he recounts his involvement as an advisor to the
dive team, saying that when he was approached about what it would
take to get him to participate he responded that no one had ever
point is, there is a way to find salvation in the Olympics. I
don’t believe it is a failed concept. The difficulty is that the
first step to solving a problem is recognizing there’s a problem.
And when money is involved… well… people resist change (or, more
accurately, resist anything that might prevent them from receiving
long as Fiji is overwhelmed with pride for its success… as long
as we have stories about Yusra Mardini… as long as Greg Louganis
is challenging boundaries and breaking down barriers and feels
so strongly about being involved… there is hope.
Olympics aren’t going away. But I do believe there is a real question
about how relevant they’ll be in the future.