The 2012 Olympics begin in London on Friday, though the Games have already begun with six women’s soccer matches on Wednesday and eight in men’s soccer on Thursday.
I’m already feeling the overkill.
I have loved the Olympics for a long time. The history, the parade of nations, the round-the-clock cavalcade of sports.
This year I’m not feeling the love.
Maybe it’s Olympic fatigue. The last Winter Games were just two years ago. Michael Phelps hasn’t been out of our sight since Beijing.
Maybe it’s spectacle fatigue. There’s always another Big-Bigger-Biggest Event right around the corner. This One Counts. This Is For All the Marbles. This Time It’s Personal.
Maybe it’s that around-the-clock sports are available around-the-calendar.
If, like me, you remember when the Olympics genuinely seemed to have meaning, you may be wondering where it all went. You probably know all these as well as I do, but here are 10 reasons to hate the upcoming Olympic Games.
1. They’re unnecessary. For most of the 20th century, the Olympic Games provided a place where the youth of the world could gather in friendship and competition, and by personal interaction learn that we are not so different from one another. Today that place is called the Internet. Instead of spending time in an internationalist environment for two weeks every four years, we can do it daily without getting off the couch.
2. Everybody’s sponsored. Everybody. The reach of international business in the modern communications age cannot be overstated. I have no nostalgia for the amateur “ideal,” which was primarily a way of protecting gentlefolk from the strivings of the working class. But if there’s an Olympian out there for whom a medal is the only – or even the primary – reward, he or she has a crummy agent.
3. The IOC. Is there a more loathsome organization in the world? International fat cats who get fatter selling other people’s dreams. These self-important moral pygmies want us to believe they lead a government-equivalent movement, rather than being carnival barkers selling hosting rights to a 37-ring circus.
4. NBC. Ever play the drinking game where you down a shot whenever the coverage shows an athlete’s parents in the stands? Me neither – you’d be comatose by the second hour. We know what we’re going to see from the network: American athletes and their background stories, Mom talking about getting up to drive to practice, Dad working in another city so Darling Hopeful can go to the training camp she needs. Lather, rinse, repeat, for two weeks. Cue the flag.
5. The medal count. The U.S. is going to win, with China second. We have the most athletes, unless they do. We have the most facilities. We don’t reduce government funding of athletics in bad economic times, because we handle such funding through tax write-offs and charitable donations, which are NOT government spending or a handout because … why exactly? Anyway, the medal count will be a part of the coverage however you get your news. The game is rigged in our favor, which is probably why we watch.
6. Women’s gymnastics. I have a problem with any sport in which puberty is a career-threatening condition, or where the ideal female body is too small to ride a rollercoaster. It’s another sport with an unwinnable drinking game: one shot for every “stick the landing.”
7. Trick sports. Rhythmic gymnastics. Trampoline. Beach volleyball. Synchronized anything.
8. Amateur boxing. It will never appear on NBC because women hate it. Men do too now, because the judging is based on a pure counting model of punches landed with no consideration of how sharp or hard. Olympic boxing had a long star-making tradition in the sport: Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Teofilo Stevenson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael and Leon Spinks. This year you’ll see more of Ann Romney’s horse than you will of the entire U.S. boxing team.
9. Ann Romney's horse. Nothing personal; if Michelle Obama owned dressage horses, I'm sure I'd hate them, too.
10. The IOC. Worth mentioning twice. Forty years ago, 11 athletes were slain in cold blood by terrorists who invaded the Olympic Village and took them hostage. It was a carefully planned attack, a violation of everything the Olympics were supposed to be about. There will be 5,535 hours of coverage on NBC’s various platforms. IOC President Jacques Rogge insists that not even a half-minute can be spared to commemorate their lives – live that were lost because they came to Munich, because they demonstrated their belief in peace through sport. The athletes were Israeli and the attackers were Palestinian; this mattered a great deal to the attackers, but need not matter to anyone else. Olympic athletes were killed in the course of the Games; their sacrifice should be honored at every opening ceremony, now and forever.