By Larry Teren
Do you care about the Summer Oympics games? Do you make an effort to watch the opening ceremony? What about the closing ceremony? Do you count the number of gold medals your country has earned? Do you follow it only if something exciting is about to happen? Or if your fellow citizen has a chance to help your country win several gold medals in swimming or some type of running competition? Does it bother you that the USA Basketball effort no longer comprises a dream team? Or did you prefer when they were all amateurs like thirty or more years ago?
I suspect a lot of people don’t know that the Summer Olympics are just starting to take place in London, England. Some municipal officials salivate at the potential for local businesses garnering lots of tourist money. Others are grateful to not have to deal with the traffic and security related issues. I’m in league with the second group.
Not too long ago several high profile Chicago area politicians were clamoring for the Olympics. There were an equal number who did not want the Olympics within 500 miles of Lake Michigan and I’m on their side. Traffic is miserable here even without all the extra visitors trying to get downtown from outlying hotels. Chicago went up against two other cities and a big deal was made about the process. When Chicago lost out on the Olympic bid, most everyone I know shed a collective sigh of relief, along with a shrug.
Why should I care about an event that has become more political than athletic. Arguments are made to deny certain countries from being allowed to send a team of representatives in various sports. Additional arguments are made as to which sports are allowed to be eligible for competition. Much of that has to do with trying to make sure that some of the smaller, lesser represented nations have a better chance to win games for which they have fairly decent athletes.
Then there are two Summer Olympics years that keep reminding me that the games are more about politics than sportsmanship. They are 1968 and 1972. In 1968, two black American athletes at the Mexico games made race an issue instead of the success they accomplished. In 1972, the International Olympic Committee made political side-stepping the most relevant game played despite Mark Spitz’s remarkable record of winning seven gold medals that stood until Michael Phelps tied it in 2008. In fact, the IOC is still playing that same game today.
So, why should any of us care which country gets the gold medals or which athlete does well enough to lose his or her cuteness the moment he or she signs a big endorsement contract for winning multiple gold medals?
Okay, maybe I’ll peek at something televised going on that is being shown live despite the six hour difference in time. Maybe for a moment I’ll find it curious and empathize with an athlete who speaks my language.
But, you can’t take back 1968 or 1972 or during the cold war all those Russian and East German women taking steriods. Who cares if we beat China? They win anyway because they have all our money in escrow.
Okay, maybe the Summer Olympics are a nice diversion from televised talent showcases hosted by obnoxious non-talented residents of Southern California with dental implants and arrogant has-been, fifteen minutes of used-up fame judges. But one last thought for the Olympic Committee people- get a new theme song already! And what’s with the chain of circles?