The Summer Olympic Games officially kick off today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (though some events have already started). Does anyone care?
Certainly the athletes do. For many this is the apex of their athletic careers, medal or no medal. But does the public care? Or have we judged the Olympic spectacle to be not worth our time?
Every four years a new city, but the same controversies. The new Olympic facilities are behind schedule, over budget and will bankrupt the city or the nation. The promised benefits for the poor have not only failed to materialize, but those in need are being evicted from their usual haunts lest visitors happen to see them and form a negative opinion of the host city. There’s always a doping scandal – and this year it happened before the Olympic flame was lit, so at least we don’t have to anticipate what day and what sport will have the first medalist revealed to be cheating. And the Athletes Village is never completely finished before things start – but they have lots of condoms on hand for everyone. I guess it isn’t all about athletics.
I think my apathy may be tied to my nationality. As a Canadian I don’t expect much from our athletes at these games. Not that they aren’t dedicated and talented, but we are a winter nation. I really don’t get that excited about badminton or judo or weight lifting, though I can appreciate the sports. But they don’t have the excitement of ice hockey or Alpine skiing. Even in the summertime when it is 30 degrees Celsius I would bet more Canadian children are playing hockey than taking judo lessons.
So while I want Canada to do well, I won’t be glued to the television watching every competitor in every sport. I may check the highlights online, but will watch very few events live.
The whole idea of athletic competition between nations seems a little strange anyway. Is this supposed to be a substitute for armed combat? If so the consequences for winning or losing seem a little weak. Although maybe that is the point.
What was once a bastion for amateur sport has become a repository for bloated commercialism. With staging costs in the billions, and that is before the extra security bill is tallied.
I’d suggest we should reexamine the whole concept and just let individual sports stage their individual championships, as they do in non-Olympic years, but I suspect there is too much money involved for any such suggestion to receive serious consideration.
Mind you, if nobody watches these games then that might send a message.