Longing for an Olympic reprieve

The Olympics long ago outgrew the things that made them great

OK, volunteering to write a column may not have been the smartest thing to do. But, you know, I kind of like seeing the range of ideas that my colleagues come up with. But then, I am not all that sure the reverse is true, and writing a column is harder work than you might think.

So, aye, volunteering doesn’t speak well for how efficient my brain cells were being this morning. Efficient enough to volunteer, perhaps, but not really working well enough to come up with a subject.

So, I resort to sharing a deep, dark secret. It’s not something I would normally admit in public, but, well … I hate the Olympics. There, I said it. Let the public shaming begin.

But, you know, I don’t think I am alone. Judging from the unhappy expression on her face during the opening ceremonies last Friday, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was also neither amused nor impressed. So, maybe as I am running from the tar and feathers you are preparing for me, I can console myself that I am at least running with an elite crowd.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I hate sports. I am far from being an athlete, but I can still appreciate the skill and ability of participants. As a photographer, I appreciate the great images that are made at sporting events.

No, my problem is that the Olympics long ago outgrew the things that made them great. Instead of amateur athletes, we have pros, some of whom have been training full time since they were children. Instead of a pure celebration of sport, we have an impossibly expensive event that spends as much time celebrating corporate sponsors as it does the athletes. Seriously, McDonalds as an Olympic sponsor? Coca-Cola? Heineken as the official beer?

OK, can’t argue with the last one, but the others are like big tobacco being the official sponsor for Better Breathing.

And then there is the meaningless pageantry. I can’t figure out what these fantastic (read: fantastically expensive) opening ceremonies have to do with athletic competition, especially the London version. Mary Poppins battling Lord Voldemort? Considering Britain’s incredible, and long, history of culture, music and literature, they decided this was the best way to represent the nations?

I think I understand the pained expression on Her Majesty’s face now.

Then there is the corruption scandals and/or drug use by the athletes. We are now at the point where no athlete can turn in an outstanding performance without immediately being accused of steroid use, blood doping or … well, it’s a long list nowadays, isn’t it?

The unseen war being waged between those whose job it is to test athletes and those helping them use banned substances  isn’t unfamiliar. New performance enhancing treatments and drugs are developed, so tests are developed; then the other side develops ways to mask them; more tests for masking agents; the cycle goes on.

Same thing happened with hackers and security developers, each side upping the ante again and again. The result: an unspoken admission that no matter how good computer security is, there is no guarantee it won’t be breached. Eventually, I suspect, performance enhancements will similarly become an accepted fact of life in the Olympic world.

But what really gets me is the talk. Endless talk about the Olympics; before, during and after. By the time we actually get to the competition, once every couple of years, it’s no wonder all the seats in the stands are empty. Why watch, when the pundits have been telling you what the results of the competition would be for the last year?




Steve Kidd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.