Does Anyone Care About the Olympics Anymore?
The 2020 Olympic Games are about to begin on July 23rd.
Oops, make that the 2021 Olympic Games, since the actual start was delayed by a full year. The big question is – does anyone care?
Sure, the Olympic Games will receive blanket media coverage. The Olympic Games will dominate the sporting news cycle over the next three weeks up through August 8th. But this isn’t the test of “amateur” skills and genuine displays of pride we all once knew which once made the Olympic Games so great and so compelling to watch.
Unfortunately, the Olympics have become such a disorganized debacle, a staged corporate platform for little more than an assembly line of product placements, and a mishmash of obscure “sports” no one plays (synchronized swimming, anyone?) that they now border on laughability if not instant forgetability.
Quick – name just one Olympic athlete from a country you don’t live in?
Uhh. Umm. Well….
Blank stare. Deer in headlights. Bzzt. Time’s up.
See, that’s the problem. It’s hard to identify with the “stars.” Sorry, I can’t get excited about a skateboarder of the second-baseman for the softball team. I-DON’T-FREAKING-CARE.
Not only do Olympic Games bankrupt their host countries (check out the facilities in Rio de Janeiro and other former hosts which are now rusted and falling apart), they simply aren’t that interesting. Tiresome flag-waving, ceaseless jingoism, and overt manifestations of chest-beating nationalism simply aren’t appealing to billions of people caught up in global concerns about climate change, totalitarianism, terrorism, and growing economic discord. Sure, there are some great individual stories of incredible athletes overcoming adversity and doing remarkable things in competition. But it all gets lost in the collective obsession with medal counts and national anthems.
I’m cheering against all the big countries and rooting for the underdog athletes from small countries.
The real pall over this Olympiad is the very real threat of COVID, now resurging, which has already had a serious impact. Some athletes have been suspended due to testing positive. Speaking of positive tests, is there anything more ridiculous than the Olympics’ drug policy? Suspending a track and field star for marijuana use, which is legal in many places? Seriously?
Finally, no live spectators make these games as exciting as a state funeral. In years past, it was fun watching fans in the stands, weeping parents proud of their kids, and attendees in costumes – which all contributed to the Olympic Games being a festive occasion. Now, it’s a televised contest of signage. A competition of corporate ad agencies. Be prepared for a bombardment of banks and car logos and never-ending commercials so the television networks can try to recover the absurd amounts of money they overpaid for rights. Prediction: The amount of advertising will make many events unwatchable.
So – will we tune in and follow the 2021 Tokyo Olympics? Probably not to the degree of years past. But we will probably bet on it. In fact, I know I will bet on it.