Olympics Preview

AKIE BERMISS: People hate the Olympics.  I’m not sure why.  I know its really boring and there are (usually) no gunfights, or stabbings, or explosions.  And its generally just really powerful, well-trained, sometimes even sexy people competing to for the fleeting title of best in the world at: whatever.  I suppose if there were more movie-stars and air-headed celebrities involved we’d all get really worked up about the Olympics.

What is it about the Olympics that people so detest?  Besides the fact that its considered really corny to root for your country in a non-terrifying semi-racist way anymore.  Perhaps there is some confusion about the role that national pride plays in the Olympics.  Its like any other sport where you root for your team because they are your team (New York Knicks, anyone?). So I’m the kind of person who tunes into the Olympics coverage about a week before hand to get a feel for the drama.  Who the underdogs are, who has the cinderalla story, who is up and coming, who’s on the way out.  It was on the stage of the 1968 (summer) Olympics that Tommie Smith and John Carlos threw up the black power fists during the national anthem, the Olympic last summer was where Usain Bolt came out of nowhere to obliterate his fellow runners, and the Olympics was where, once upon a time, there were figure skaters named Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding.

That’s what I’m saying.  There can be drama at the Olympics. Drama and half, if you ain’t careful.

So why do the Winter Olympics get a bad rap?  Is it just because there’s no sun?  A lot of places get a bad rap just because they don’t get a lot of sun.  Why do you think the 2016 Olympics are going to be Rio De Janeiro is hosting the 2016 Olympics instead of Chicago?!  Just prejudice.  Prejudice for the sun!  Well, I like the cold.  I like cold climes. And cold drinks.  And cold people.  And I like that the Winter Olympics is the international acceptance of doing strenuous physical activity in conditions in which most people just want to curl up in to a ball and die.

Humans were made to run, indeed.  Not strap sharp metallic blades to their feet and glide across frozen water at high speeds.  And yet we do it.  For fun.  And sometimes: for glory.

Everyone like to make fun of the luge — and that’s fair.  The luge looks ridiculous.  The two-man luge looks even more ridiculous.  And uncomfortable.  And quite sad, actually.  You’ll get no arguments from me there.  But I love me some luging.  (or lugeing.  Or lugery, maybe…)  For no reason at all people send their bodies hurtling down a mountainside at insanely high speeds with nothing more to protect themselves than a helmet and some spandex.  I don’t care who you are: that’s awesome!

I like figure skating, bobsledding (two-man and four), ski, ski-jumping, slalom, and speed-skating.*  I’ll watch them all.  When the Olympics is on I can watch television all day.  Its the high holy day of international competitiveness.  But at least we’re not fighting!

No, I don’t follow my Olympic athletes once the Olympics is over.  I don’t care about them during the rest of their lives.  Sad, but true.  Its like a one-night stand in some place foreign and exotic.  Lasts a couple of weeks — and then its over.  We don’t exchange numbers, we don’t get together and have lunch in between meets, and I don’t care what endorsements they get or if they go to jail or make babies, or just drop dead.  I care about them when they are at their height.  When they are competing to be Olympic champions.  And you should too!  You don’t have to root for the country you live in, or even the country you are from.  Just pick a team — and start cheering.

You’ll find its quite liberating.

[* but no, not Curling.  Curling is crap.  Curling is ridiculous.  Its what embarrasses me when I'm talking about the Winter Olympics.  Its not a sport.  I'm not even sure if its a game.  What I do know is: its lame.  Unlike the rest of the Winter Olympics events: which rock.]

TED BERG: This is a drum I’ve been beating a long time: The Olympics suck.

I realize there were times in our past when they mattered. Back in the 8th century B.C., for example, they were a great way to prove to the other city-states that your crops were bountiful enough to produce strong competitors that could best their opponents in contests of strength. It was a nice, peaceful alternative to war in the race for intra-Hellenic bragging rights.

Nowadays, in the global, developed world, the Olympics no longer measure our nutritional standards. They stand only as a relic of a time gone by; an antiquated reminder of a moment in our not-too-distant past when we actually cared about the superiority of our nation’s athletes.

But the Cold War is over. We beat the Commies at knowing how to govern a region, so we don’t have to worry about beating them at various races.

Nevermind that even back then the entire Olympics were essentially rendered redundant by Rocky IV. When they were really fun, the Olympics were about Us beating Them. We were the good-guy wrestlers and the Soviets were the bad-guy wrestlers, and only through Olympic dominance could our athletes dignify the American way, or something. It all seemed to make sense.

Who has time for so much nationalism nowadays? No one notices our team and their team anymore, just a whole mishmash of spandex and a bunch of really stupid events.

Because that’s the other thing. So few of the events that constitute the Olympics should really be considered sports.

And look: I have no doubt that the Olympians themselves are top-notch athletes who could kick the crap out of me. That much is certain. I’m sure they could all bench press 400 pounds while running 4.5 40-yard dashes and whatever.

So they should play football.

Races are not sports. Races are races. They test speed and sometimes endurance, and those are athletic skills, but they are mostly interesting as important components of far more entertaining contests: actual sports. Speed skating would be a whole lot more fun to watch, for example, if the speed skaters held hockey sticks and had to try to get pucks in the other country’s net. That’s a sport.

The way it is currently, there’s only one possible outcome: One speed skater skates slightly faster than the rest of ‘em. Boring. Call me when there’s a five-minute major for fighting.

Hockey, I should note, is an Olympic sport. In fact, it is certainly the best sport in the Winter Olympics, and maybe the only real sport in the Winter Olympics. Actually, hockey and curling — silly, ridiculous, ice-shuffleboard curling — are the only two events in the entire Winter Olympics in which the winner is determined by one team or individual besting another in head-to-head competition. And that’s what should happen in sports.

Winners of the rest are determined by stopwatches or judges.

Biathlon might get a pass because there’s gunplay involved. Skiing is a fun hobby and occasionally ends with hilarious groin mishaps. Plus the bobsled, skeleton and luge all look like a really good time, although the two-man luge is one of the more awkward concepts I’ve ever considered as I’ve never figured out the purpose of the second man laying on top of the first man.

All of these events have some merit, for sure. And if you talk to an enthusiast of any of these events — and I have — they’ll tell you that the discipline is underappreciated, has a strong cult following and just needs more exposure to catch on in a big way.

But that’s not the case. They’ll never catch on because they’re simply not that interesting, and that’s a big part of why the Olympics suck so much. The events lack even the subtleties of the lousiest, most one-sided college basketball tilt, and though the festivities are rife with pomp and circumstance, their sum total of actual interesting moments cannot match those of a single baseball game.

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  4. HoldingPoop says:

    All anyone needs to know about the Olympics this year:

    “The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place on unceded Indigenous land. Far from being simply about sport, the history of the Olympics is one rooted in displacement, corporate greed, repression, and violence. The effects of the upcoming Winter Games are apparent to everyone – expansion of sport tourism on Indigenous lands; increasing homelessness across the province and especially in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; misdirected public spending and debt; vulnerable working conditions especially for migrant labour; unprecedented destruction of the environment; and unparalleled police and security spending,” according to the Olympics Resistance Network.

    “The funding of the Olympics before the funding of the suffering, homeless and impoverished people of these Indian territories shows only that the government in B.C. is only interested in economic gain and not the well-being of the people who lived here prior to the Olympics,” according to Tsalalhmec, Statimc Native Youth Movement.

    Find more reasons to oppose the games and ways you can show solidarity with others who support anti-capitalist and anti-colonial activities and teachings here:

    http://olympicresistance.net/

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