FRESH HELL: The over-hyped Olympics

The Winter Olympics are pointless. They feature sports that are generally boring to watch or better showcased in other competitions (at the X Games, for example). They cost a lot of money, create headaches for people living in host cities, and don’t attract enough tourist dollars to offset the large taxpayer expense. I can understand how the Olympics would be awesome for athletes – coming to the apex of your life’s goal – but I can’t see what anyone else is getting out of the experience. It seems a little like a conversation about budget planning with a high-class hooker: boring, expensive, and irrelevant.

There are plenty of Vancouver-specific reasons why the Olympics are a waste of time and money, but no matter the host city, I think they’ve outlived their welcome. The short-lived patriotism that gets stirred up by the medal count doesn’t seem like a real measure of the athleticism of any particular country (or its value within the borders). Two of the ice dancers competing for Japan are from New Jersey, and their sister is competing for the Republic of Georgia. Whatever their heritage, the environment and resources that led them to compete were American. Who gets to claim superiority based on their merit? The Americans, the Japanese, or the Georgians?

The reasons for watching the Olympics, either on TV or in person, are even more elusive. As far as I can tell, people watch them on TV because they’re the only thing on. I’m not particularly interested in men’s mogul skiing or ice dancing, but if there’s nothing else to do at four o’clock on a Wednesday then sure, I’ll watch it. Going to see an event in person seems more like a way to generate envy than an act born out of sincere desire to see a spandex-clad national representative slide around on ice. Well, I’m not jealous that you or someone your dad works for paid ridiculous sums of money to watch that bullshit.

All the Winter Olympic sports are boring as hell to watch probably because they are largely individual – as opposed to team – sports. I am not impressed or entertained by an athlete who skis cross-country faster or better than anyone else. (I’m not impressed by anyone playing tennis, swimming, or running by themselves either, so this is not a winter-specific bias.) Hockey and figure skating are the only sports that are fun to watch and even they are goofy and better presented in their traditional formats: NHL regular season games and Disney on Ice. Olympics-induced patriotism aside, I’m generally prouder to be from Minnesota than from the States, so a Wild game is more interesting to me than a Team USA one. Also, what can I get that Miracle didn’t already give me?

The Olympic Games should really just be a big weekend away for all the Olympic athletes at a cottage. Forget building facilities in a mountain city and spending $90 million on TV rights. Pack everyone and their skis and skates onto a bus with a video camera, a handful of medals, and a few two-sixes, and I think everyone who was going to have fun, would.

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