Everywhere I turn, the Olympic Games are being met with cynicism
. People I've talked to aren't watching the Olympics for a variety of reasons, such as "They're not live.", "The IOC
.", or, my favorite, "I'm not going to join the rest of the jingoistic
flag-wavers." Then there are the folks who bitch about everything that goes wrong with the Olympics
, from ticketing problems to the inclusion of quasi-sports to all-out boycotts. And yet nobody, expect for perhaps Bob Costas
, extols the virtue and spirit of the Olympic Games.
This bitching and moaning about the Olympics not being held live is ridiculous. Is it really THAT big a deal? Live is only as recent as the propagation delay. I like to think of these games as having a particularly long propagation delay. "But you can look right on the Internet and get the results!" So don't. Simple solutions to simple problems. I'm curious as to what these same people would have done before television. One of their friends would pick up a local newspaper to see what had happened in the previous day's events. And they'd say, "I'm not interested. All that stuff happened yesterday." If the Olympics need to be live for you to enjoy them, you're missing the point of the Olympics.
The concerns raised against the IOC are indeed valid, and I've heard plenty of people say that they're not watching the Olympics as a form of protest to the IOC. Well, that's great, but does the IOC have that much to do with the individual struggles of athletes in the 400-meter butterfly? No, not really. In fact, even with a totally pure IOC, the only difference you'd probably see in these games would be Bob Costas saying, "Welcome back to Rome!" instead of "Welcome back to Sydney!". I doubt that a television boycott of the Olympics would have much effect - athletes would still compete, cities would still fight for the rights to host the Games, the Olympics would still go on. If you think that the purpose of the Olympics is to entertain a television audience, you're missing the point of the Olympics.
As for the jingoistic flag-wawing... Well, do I root for the United States? You're damn right I do. Why? Well, for the same reason that I root for the Boston Red Sox, or my local high school, or my own family in the Annual PTA Raffle. It's who I am. Does that mean that I root for other countries to lose? No. I'd rather the Japanese softball team win 2-1 over the U.S., like they did today, than have the U.S. team win 15-1. That's not competition. And I think most people would agree - we watched the original 'Dream Team' because of who was on it, not because they were beating teams by forty points. And I bet if you asked now, most people care no more about this year's so-called 'Dream Team' than they do about men's triathletes, or women's weightlifters, or our soccer teams. I've heard stories (see: Olympic Games) of people beating each other up and stabbing each other over sports. This is ridiculous. If you're beating people up because they root for a different team than you do, you're missing the point of a whole bunch of things, the least of which is probably the Olympics.
The Olympics are an event unlike any other, an event that takes several years just to prepare for, requires thousands of volunteers and paid staff, and a huge collaboration between several governing bodies, about 200 countries, and countless numbers of people. No one can realistically expect everything to go completely as planned. Yet all I hear is, "Sydney screwed the public out of tickets." and "You know, Athens has already fallen behind on their infrastructure." Rome wasn't built in a day, folks, and you know what? Even if it was, chances are the planners said it would be done by mid-morning.
Another one I hear is how particular countries don't deserve to host the Olympics, and if their bid is received, how they should be boycotted. I think I've touched upon this before. And I'll let DMan tell you the plight of China's ongoing attempt to get the Olympics in Beijing for 2000. But if there was ever anything that wasn't supposed to be about governments, but about the citizens of the Earth, it's the Olympics. Sure, people have used the Olympics to make political statements - it's a stage the whole world is watching. And you can argue that the raising of flags and playing of national anthems is a sign of nationalism. And that's true. But it's where they're from. When college teams score, the school's fight song is played. It's more territoriality than nationalism.
The fact is, and this sounds super-saccharine, there aren't too many times that the people of the world can get together on common ground without pointing guns at each other or getting into heated debates concerning overfishing in the Grand Banks or the territorial rights to Kashmir. And despite the media circus and the political currents which surround the games, the spirit and ideal of the Games are still there for whoever wants to see them. And I just wish people could recognize that, and rather than bitch and moan because they can't watch men's baseball because their cable company doesn't carry MSNBC, revel in the short period of time for which the world shares a common bond.