Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympics Recap

Man was I ever bored with the Olympics, and few people will fail to notice it now being gone as much as I will. It's a shame, but like most other "institutions" (see: Marriage) from back in the days before Reaganomics spurred the American economy to sacrifice anything in favor of squeezing additional profits out of previously untapped places, the whole mystique and aura of the used to be every-four-years event been drained away by over-commercialization and, frankly, by the influence of the U.S. and American companies on the entire effort.

For starters, can I be the only person out there who can't stand all the references to Coca-Cola and McDonalds in particular that I am just constantly and eternally bombarded with any time the Olympics is on, mentioned, or referenced anywhere? Now I'm all for capitalism and I'm all for these companies spending their hard-earned dollars on whatever kind of advertising makes sense for them, but shouldn't there be some sense of accuracy, or of truth? I mean, I literally saw probably 25 or 30 times during this Olympics run in Vancouver, the McDonalds spot where they show a bunch of young, good-looking athletic-looking types sitting around a McDonalds popping chicken mcnugget after chicken mcnugget into their mouths, all while Proud Voiceover Guy proclaims that McDonalds is the "favorite food of athletes participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics". Is that so? McDonalds, huh? So if I follow around Apollo Ohno, or Lindsay Vaughn, or for that matter that little Asian woman who killed in the ice skating, I'll see them jumping into a McDonalds for a little mcnugget action two or three times a day? Oh -- and while they're at it, they'll be drinking Coke, the other megasponsor and the official drink of the 2010 Winter Olympics. So all these toned, focused, world-class athletes just sit around eating McDonalds and drinking Coke all day, hmmm? What a joke. I'm all about the McDonalds, and the coke for that matter if that's your thing, and I'm glad these are options available to Americans and to humans all around the world these days. And I don't really have any issue with these companies spending umpteen millions for broad sponsorships to hook up their names with the vaunted esteem still held in many's eyes by The Olympics. But is this really the best way to get the message across? Saying that McDonalds is the favorite food of the 2010 Olympic athletes? While I'm sure there are always exceptions, my guess is that most people who competed in this year's Games probably haven't stepped anywhere near a McDonalds restaurant in the past several months. Just a guess, but I'm quite sure it's not what these guys and gals eat are sitting around eating all day, any more than Coca-Cola is what they're drinking.

It's not just the sponsorships and the marketing, though, that has been responsible for watering down the Olympics to the state it is in today. As I made reference to in an earlier post, the U.S. has successfully ingratiated itself within the IOC -- who like everyone else associated with the Olympics, in the end primarily sees the dollar $ign$ that the U.S. has to offer -- such that we have added a bunch of trumped-up events to the Olympics that mostly aren't even sports these days. Snowboarding? Sure, it's fun. But in the Olympics? Snowboarding is a hobby, guys, it's not an Olympic sport, sorry. But it helps the U.S. to win medals and close the gap with the snowier countries in the Winter Olympics every few years, which increases the global viewership numbers and therefore brings in more money to the event, so it happens. Short-track speed skating? Ski cross, pitting four skiers against each other (not against the clock) simultaneously on a course that is more or less designed to generate speed beyond levels where the participants can reasonably expect to avoid crashing into the other skiers? That whole notion has "America" and "tv" written all over it, doesn't it? Ice dancing, that's another great one. The bottom line is, we have added more and more events to the Olympics in recent years in an endless push to inflate America's medal count in these Olympics, even stooping so low as adding hobbies and calling them Olympic events (what's next? No-limit holdem in the Olympics? Chess in the Olympics? Numismatics? Spelunking? Rock Climbing? My lord.), and to increase the number of events to increase the sponsorship opportunities and the telecast times of the Games. And now is anyone really surprised that we've watered the whole event down to the point of almost meaninglessness?

The last thing I wanted to mention was this idea I love that some people are advancing out there of late -- that the way to cure what sucks about the Olympics nowadays is to go back to using only amateurs, and no professional athletes of any kind. Yeah, that will sure make the basketball and the hockey more enjoyable. Riiight. Here's the thing: the ancient Greeks Romans started the Olympics more than 2000 years ago as a way to bring together the greatest athletes in the world at the time and to compete to show who is best at various athletic contests. The fact that it is a competition among the best athletes in the world is the whole point -- ultimately it's the very thing that makes it the Olympics, and not just some local or regional or amateur-level event. Come on, people, this is the Olympics -- It's not supposed to be a game between the 186th, 188th, 194th, 195th and 196th best basketball players in one country battling it out against the 17th, 19th, 20th, 24th and 27th best basketball players in another country. Just because America in its excess already has a professional league in a sport where every single great player in America, and nowadays in the world, flocks to play -- and mostly get paid handsomely to do so -- doesn't mean that this centuries-old tradition of battling it out among the best of the best should be cheapened. The bottom line is, as much as amateurs might care more, might play harder, and might in certain circumstances make for a better story (see the 1980 U.S. hockey team), the very last thing the Olympics needs right now is for its product to be watered down any further than it already has been by over-commercialization. Take the world's best athletes away, and the Olympics is nothing but drivel. It's C-Span as far as I'm concerned, and I'll watch it just about as much.

That's all I've got for today, so now you get to go and read a bunch of self-congratulatory posts from Canadians about how "tough" and "gritty" that U.S. hockey squad is. Because they would know, they are qualified to make such judgments. They're Canadians, they own Hockey. They Live It and Breathe It. So go ahead, enjoy yourselves. See if I care. Seriously.

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Blogger Fuel55 said...

such bitterness

2:00 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Classic sour grapes. I'm pretty sure if you ever attended an Olympic event live you'd sing a different tune.


2:32 AM  

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