February 21, 2014
Like many of you, I have long been a fan of the Olympics, but in recent years I’ve found my interest increasingly waning. This has been particularly true of the Winter Games, which, to me, have always been the weak sister in comparison to their summer counterparts. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that things have really reached their nadir with the current festivities in Sochi. Based on a variety of things including the performance of many of the US athletes—yes speedskaters I’m looking at you, the quality of the accommodations and Bob Costas’ eyes, I have to ask, is it time to put a fork in this thing?
To be fair the Winter Games have always operated at a disadvantage. They include a lot of sports that most of us have never heard of, or, at least we don’t understand their fine distinguishing differences. For example, just exactly how is ice dancing different than pairs figure skating, and what in the heck is the difference between skeleton and luge anyway? This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that a number of these events rely on judging to determine the victors. If you’re like me, you like your winners to be determined on objective, rather than, subjective criteria. Score the most points, do it faster or jump higher, you win. This is something that anyone can understand, but I just feel lost trying to evaluate some 16-year-old girl’s triple axle performed to Lady Gaga’s greatest hits.
I think another problem with the winter version of the Olympiad, is that the sports that you’d really want to see tend to get shortchanged for those that most of us–okay, men–just aren’t interested in. Anything like bobsledding or the downhill that places the competitors on the edge of disaster has got my attention but women’s figure skating, not so much. Mrs. Crosby, however, and many of her compatriots, can’t get enough of the costumes, pageantry and triple lutzes that end up the in the “kiss and cry” room in the form of a panting participant, dressed in an outfit that one would only otherwise find on Bourbon Street, breathlessly waiting for their scores. Apparently to the majority of Winter Olympics fans, this is high drama; personally I find this to be the perfect time to take the dog out. Unfortunately, one triple jump must be worth a ton of ratings points, and that’s why you only get two minutes of luge during an evening’s telecast.
Holding the games in a terrorist infested, sub-tropical area of Russia is also probably contributing to my questioning of the need to continue to perpetuate the “Olympic Ideal”. When a former KGB member delivers the oath of sportsmanship, you’ve reached a point of irony that you just don’t see every day. Things just haven’t come together in Sochi the way most folks, Putin especially, would have desired for the fulfillment of their Olympic dream. The accommodations, for example, have been found to be somewhat lacking, with lacking being the operative word since things like light bulbs, shower curtains and door knobs have been newly defined as luxury items by the International Olympic Committee. It’s kind of like the facilities were going to be built by the folks at Motel 6 but someone deciding that was going to be too fancy. Face it, when the drinking water resembles the athletes’ doping test urine samples, it’s going to put a damper on more than a few Olympic dreams—“I waited four years for this?”
One would think that after Sochi, the Olympic folks would be hard pressed to get anyone—Bob Costas at least–to come to another winter games, but I guess the athletic spirit and television dollars are to much to put a stop to all the skating and schussing. While I’m sure that the participants will look upon this as good news, I’m not so sure. Maybe the reason the Olympics are only held every four years is to give us time to forget how akin they are to the agony of defeat for the average viewer. The next winter games are going to be held in South Korea. While I wish them well, don’t expect me—or Bob Costas—to sit through another one.