Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympics? Bah humbug

I feel like an Olympic Scrooge, but I just can't get myself excited about the Beijing Games.

I'm sure part of it is that the coverage here in the US is (not surprisingly) focused on the performance of the US athletes, and despite the fact that I'll soon become a US citizen, when it comes to sport I'm still 100% Aussie. Well maybe 99% since I've developed a growing interest in American Football and the Green Bay Packers.

But that's not the full story since I can easily follow Australia's performance on the Internet but I'm still not really engaged.

I think the big problem is that it's all become such a production. It's like when someone hires a professional cameraman for their wedding and he takes over the day; there's just so much going on at the Olympics now that detracts from the real story - the athletes and their performance. And China's obsession with putting on a good show and winning the medal count just exacerbates that problem.

The other problem I have is that the selection of sports is just ridiculous, much of it driven by the need to maximise television revenues in the US. By what other criteria could baseball be included but not cricket, or women's softball but not netball?

The other problem I have is "sports" where the scoring is entirely subjective, stuff like diving and, worst of all, synchronised swimming. "Citius, Altius, Fortius" is the Olympic motto; it does not include "prettiest" or "best artistic merit" or any crap like that. If you can't measure it objectively, then in my view, whatever it is, it isn't a sport.

Some of the same criticisms can be levelled at the Winter Olympics (lose the ice dancing please!), but I'm much less jaded about those. That's partly because I'm personally much more interested in the core Winter Olympic sports of skiing (both Alpine and Nordic) than anything at the Summer Games, but also because it's still a much smaller deal and therefore maintains some of the true Olympic spirit and charm.

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