I wish I wasn’t excited about the Olympics

The Rio Olympics are set to start in three days, and to describe my feelings about it as “mixed” would be the understatement of the millennium.

Where do I begin?  Should I start with the folly of planning a multi-billion dollar sports spectacle in a nation that’s economically devastated and politically unstable?  Or the greed that prevents the sponsors of athletes – many of whom are often meagerly compensated despite being the entire fucking point of the thing – from even so much as mentioning the word “Olympics”?

And where do I even begin when it comes to doping? I don’t even know where to start. It’s just too much. It’s ruined so many of the sports I love. Now when I hear about a phenomenal athletic performance, it’s hard for me not to wonder in the back of my mind whether that athlete was doping or not.  Can you blame me?

Where do you even start when it comes to talking about everything that is wrong with the Olympics?

Yet I, like a complete dope, will most likely watch tons of the coverage, thereby giving my implicit approval that yes this is fine, yes I am OK with this, anything to keep me entertained.  The IOC and all of the various forces of greed and corruption that orbit around it depend upon that implicit approval to keep doing what they’re doing, and to pretend as if they’re doing so because they care about global goodwill and not because they’ve found a really efficient way to keep themselves rich and powerful.

I am so frustrated about it because I am someone who loves sports passionately, but the sports I love receive virtually no media attention outside of the Olympics Trials or the Olympics themselves. If I want to see the athletes who I actually care about as they perform at the peak of their game, I’ve got to watch the Olympics.

And as a fervent supporter of women in sport, this is particularly aggravating, because outside of the Olympics, top female athletes receive next to no media attention.  Yes, we hear about Serena Williams – and rightfully so – and occasionally about women’s college basketball or professional soccer, but that’s about it.  If I want to see women in other sports performing at the top of their game, I have to watch the Olympics.

And yes, there is a tiny nugget of truth to all the bullshit about global goodwill.  I’ve lived in the United States my whole life, and have spent about a total of two weeks outside of its borders.  The Olympics – particularly the Opening Ceremonies – give me a chance to see other people from around the world, to see how proud they are to represent their countries, to show that patriotism isn’t just reserved for those of us who wave the Stars and Stripes around while chanting “USA! USA!”

I have legitimate, honest-to-goodness reasons to love the Olympics – as do so many of us – and it infuriates me that this singular opportunity to exhibit some of the best qualities of human has been so thoroughly debased by some of the worst.

That desire to connect with our fellow humans around the planet under the common guise of sport is a lovely thing, and we are all being exploited because of it.  I certainly feel exploited.  Not to the same extent as the athletes, and certainly not to the same extent as the marginalized people of Rio and Brazil, but I definitely feel as though this part of my better nature is being taken advantage of by people who apparently lack scruples and moral fiber.
I want to be wholeheartedly excited about the Olympics, but my god, the Olympics make it so hard.

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22 responses to “I wish I wasn’t excited about the Olympics

  1. Lots to think about. I just watched tonight a powerful documentary about the 1936 Berlin Olympics — and seeing all the Nazi flags and Hitler declaring them open….chilling. The film interviewed several historians who asserted that the Nazi Olympics set the tone — in all the ways you describe — for every Games since then. That’s also pretty chilling.

  2. My sentiments exactly! I always looove watching them to see all the other types of sports that are NEVER shown on ESPN or other networks. Gymnastics, any swimming or diving, and volleyball are by far my favourite to watch. We have a few local Olympians from my town who will be competing this year as well. Always exciting when that happens. But I do feel like the committee in charge for picking the host cities has really got to get their shit togther. A similar thing happened when it was in Russia if I’m not mistaken. The conditions for some of the athletes were very despicable and then there was the tension with Putin. A slight shadow definitely gets cast over the excitement of what should be an amazing couple of weeks

  3. You captured exactly how I feel. I live in a city that hosted the Olympics (winter 2010), and seeing how the Games are approved, organized and operated unfortunately made me even more cynical about the entire thing.

  4. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, so thanks for opening my mind! Living in London, I have to say the 2012 games are partly what got me into running, and I do enjoy the legacy of the games that have been left behind- so I benefit personally- but I can’t say that’s the case for most games host nations!

  5. I so agree. I’m really looking forward to watching the Olympics but very much knowing that I’m doing so with my head (deliberately) in the sand about all these issues. I’m not even telling my friends about it, because I am basically so ashamed.

  6. So many good points! I once dated a ParaOlympic athlete….right after he retired. It was weird because he was always so shocked that I “didn’t know who he was” despite most of his medals. I think the lack of coverage for that part of the Olympic games is sad. Why should I not have known who he was? He had never placed lower than Bronze in any Olympic competition…..but yet, he was just a guy I was dating. And that attitude may have been part of the reason we didn’t last.

    We will be watching the opening ceremonies and Men’s Gymnastics this year because both of my little boys (5.5 and 3) are involved in gymnastics and we don’t get to see that kind of competition often enough. I think there’s a lot to be said for the type of sport coverage given to all athletes in this country and others. Very skewed toward those who are performance enhanced. What kind of role models are we giving our children?

  7. Oh, I completely understand your ambivalence–I feel the same way about the World Cup (both men’s and women’s) because FIFA is so freaking corrupt. (I watched the final presentations for the 2022 World Cup and it was down to the US and Qatar, and the US one was AWESOME. If you can’t win with Morgan effing Freeman narrating your pitch, something is definitely up.)

    I’m going to stick to watching the events I really want (like weightlifting) and avoid the packaged primetime coverage to assuage myself somewhat.

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  10. Same here. I am scrambling today to borrow an NBC log in from someone or figure out a way to hack a free way to watch, because as excited as I am for the opportunity to watch all the sports I love, I also don’t want to pay into the monopoly of a cable company just to watch for a few weeks. There’s also a voice in my head saying I know it doesn’t matter if I watch or not, because one more person watching doesn’t affect the athletes’ compensation. And then I get frustrated with lack of media on sports except the big teams in the States – is rowing EVER broadcast, except maybe the Head of the Charles? who remembers when the gymnastics world competitions are? why is it only the trolls of LetsRun who get to publicize so much of the USA and World Championships for track and field? Can I jut live in a van to drive around and watch triathlon and track and field all year?

    • I cut the cord when I left my old job, so our viewing has been fairly limited. It’s annoying that this one time every four years that we get to see the sports we like – AND GET TO SEE FEMALE ATHLETES – is also so fucked up in so many ways.

  11. I feel the same way. The doping crisis in athletics (currently) has made me so cynical about all amazing performances and I am someone who generally doesn’t even understand the concept of cynicism! The whole Rule 40 thing bugs me to pieces. And yet here I am, watching the Opening Ceremony and knowing I’ll be glued to my TV for the next few weeks because I can’t stay away.

    • It’s been a wonderful diversion so far from the mess that is presidential politics, but still, there’s always this mess lurking just beneath the surface (and sometimes erupting, like when Lily King did her finger-wag or when Katrina Hossuz posted times that were way faster than what she’d been doing previously).

  12. Sidebar frustration: I really want to watch these athletes swim, yet the swim coverage runs so late that I miss it because its past my bedtime which is early because I must wake up early to train myself.

  13. I missed most of the gymnastics coverage because our provider’s tv schedule is totally screwed up. It says there should be gymnastics but it’s actually streaming judo. Luckily we got 3 medals there so no loss 😉

    • I’ve been missing a lot of the coverage, too, because it tends to run so late and I’ve got to get up early to train! I tried to stay up late a few times to watch and it threw me all into disarray. I’ve mostly been watching clips the next day, which is not quite the same.

  14. This is my first year not watching any of the Olympics. I used to get so excited about watching it, but every year I get so frustrated hearing about how corrupt it all is… after hearing a few stories about its impact on Rio citizens, I decided to just forgo watching. Although, if I’m honest, I’m not sure that’s really doing any good? I don’t know that not watching the coverage really impacts any change of any kind :/

    • I feel ya. I ended up not watching nearly as much as I would have, but not because of any sort of targeted boycott but rather because I would have had to stay up way late to watch the prime time programming, and I have to get up early for all my training. But apparently you and I are not the only ones who didn’t watch as much of it – ratings were apparently way down. Plus most of the stadiums and arenas were empty. If the Olympics keeps going like this, well…I don’t think it’ll be around for much longer. Which is sad in its own way.

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