I do not care about the Olympics.
I spent a lot of time deciding what my first sentence for this post should be. The other openers included, “The Olympics is a representation of the negative effects of nationalism,” “The Olympics is a collection of fake sports,” “The Olympics is an outdated institution,” and “The Olympics are dumb.” A lot of those sounded a bit harsh and filled with my biases. I chose the sentence that I did because it is the most politically correct way to say all of the things that I want to say about the Olympics. My selection has been undermined by revealing the sentences that didn’t make the cut and the below opinions of the Olympics.
Most of my exposure to the 2016 Olympic games has been the public American worshipping of Michael Phelps and Simone Biles. Phelps has added several medals to his collection that he has been building up since 2004, and the 19 year old Biles is now widely considered the best gymnast of all time. I recognize the athleticism of both of these athletes and what they have accomplished is remarkable. But who cares about swimming and gymnastics? Both are niche sports and only take over the main stream media every four years when we (the U.S.) send our dolphin men and 4’8” masses of muscle to compete against other countries. Americans really get invested in swimming and gymnastics, even though they do not understand what they are watching. They don’t care about the feats of athleticism, they feed into the idea that the United States is the “best” country in the world and the fact that we have fast swimmers and great gymnasts proves that.
If Michael Phelps was a German swimmer winning 28 medals spanning over 12 years, we wouldn’t care nearly as much. The nationalism the drives the success of the Olympics is what I find disturbing. There is a constant update on how many medals each country has feeding into the idea that the country with the most medals is the best athletically and therefore the best country in the world. That is what the middle aged mom in my office or the reality TV watching friend on facebook cares about. They want their belief that the United States is the greatest reaffirmed by winning the most medals at the Olympics every four years.
The Olympics is highly regarded and is rooted deep in tradition, but some of the events that take place are ridiculous. These events include Hand Ball, Bad Mitten, Dressage (dancing horses), sailing, and synchronized swimming, just to name a few. The sports that most people do recognize, soccer, golf, basketball, and tennis are played at the Olympics without any significant stakes. The real, true competition of these sports takes place outside of the Olympics. The NBA champion is the true champion in basketball, not whoever won the gold in the Olympics. The World Cup is the more sought after title for soccer and golf and tennis have their own professional leagues where there are majors that are regarded as the true goal of the sport.
Other than the main stream media that is unavoidable, my following of the Olympics has consisted of Deadspin articles about the terrible conditions in Rio and horrific injuries some of the athletes have suffered. The easiest click bait esque articles to write are about the sub par conditions provided by the struggling city of Rio which leads to over coverage and a misrepresentation of how bad the conditions really are. But I don’t care, from what I have seen Rio did a terrible job of hosting these strange games and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find enjoyment in seeing updates like these in my social media feeds:
Hosting the Olympics is becoming an impossible task for cities like Rio and in 2012, Sochi. Empty unused Olympic stadiums liter cities that have hosted the games in the recent past and the financial and moral benefits from hosting the games are becoming nonexistent. Only a couple of cities are placing bids the host future Olympic games which I hope is a sign of the beginning of the end for the ancient nationalism promoting collection of fake sports.