Why I Hate the Olympics

I love sports. But I hate the Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the events (well, not ice dancing or luge; halfpipe is sort of interesting though). I love the ancient Greek idea of sporting contests and human excellence. And as a patriot, I love watching the United States vanquish our rivals. I still remember watching the Lake Placid victory over the evil empire’s hockey team in 1980.

But I don’t like the way the modern olympics play out. They are an enormous waste of money, often used for the purposes of glorifying the host country’s government. The Sochi and Beijing olympics, like the Berlin olympics before them, serve to defend the ideology of authoritarian regimes.

In addition, the Olympics require nations to funnel billions of dollars to build stadiums that serve little purpose for their people after the show is over. What goes on in China’s Bird’s Nest stadium these days? Is it a good place to escape the air pollution in Beijing?

I also think the ideology of the Olympics is naive and silly. If the speeches of Olympic leaders are any guide, people in the “Olympics movement” think that they somehow help bring peace to the world. Tell that to the ancient Greeks, who may have paused their wars to hold the Olympics, but then went right on killing each other afterwards. There is no Victor Davis Hanson book on how the Olympics stopped the Peloponnesian War — because they didn’t.

How exactly does watching sporting events and fielding national teams convince nations to put aside the defense of their security and the pursuit of their interests? If any American leader ever allowed the Olympic spirit to change his calculus on how best to defend the nation and achieve our foreign policy goals, we’d be justified in running him out of his office.

It’s a lot of wasted money, a lot of authoritarian self-congratulation, and a lot of worthless bravado. Basically, the Olympics are the United Nations with a medal platform.

While we’re at it, can we talk about the silliness of some of the sports? Can someone explain why the combination of skiing and shooting is an Olympic event? Apart from giving Norway a shot of self-esteem? To be clear, I am all for shooting guns while speeding around on two pieces of wood in the forest — but an international sport on par with the 100-meter dash? There’s a reason we don’t watch these things more than once every four years.

  1. Carey J.
    Eric Jablow

    James Atkins: the biathlon is the only Olympic sport worth anything  · 3 hours ago

    Consider the most famous biathlon competition of all time: the Winter War of 1939-1940, when the Finns took the Gold Medal. The best performance went to Simo Häyhä, 505-1. · 4 hours ago

    Biathlon was developed as a simplified version of military patrol, a team sport which combined rifle shooting, cross-country skiing, and ski mountaineering, skills used by mountain infantry in winter campaigns.

    Biathlon is not the only Olympic sport which is based on military skills. Modern pentathlon (running, fencing, swimming, pistol shooting, and show jumping) is based on the skill set required by a military courier in the days before telegraphy and motorized vehicles.  

  2. kmtanner

    Shouldnt you say something about steroids too? As a finn I cant watch skiing because my own countrymen has done a lot for ruining the sport.

  3. Doug Kimball

    How about curling?  Or short track ice skating?   I disagree on the luge.  The luge is the craziest sport ever!  Guys basically strap runners to their backs and shoot a frozen waterfall.  It is mental.   

  4. Michael Staughton

    My understanding is that biathlon is difficult because you need to combine two disparate athletic skills. The skiing puts you in the upper end of your aerobic range, then you have to calm down and sit still enough to hit something the size of a silver dollar at 50 yards. Then do it again. It’s about an animal-like drive for speed, punctuated by man-and-machine precision. I’d love to give it a try…

  5. Mike LaRoche

    I haven’t watched the Olympics since 1992.

  6. JamesAtkins

    the biathlon is the only Olympic sport worth anything 

  7. Danny Alexander

    No need to look back as far as VDH’s era of scholarly focus in order to validate your argument here, John.

    The IOC has, since Munich 1972, demonstrated with consistent ferocity that the vaunted “Olympic spirit” is always, always about moral bankruptcy in the face of evil depravity.

  8. Seawriter

    The only difference between the modern Olympics and the ancient games — especially in the latter days of both — is that so far, no head of state from a sponsoring country has entered the competitions and been awarded first prize in the entries.

    With Putin heading Russia, I thought we might see that this time, but no.  Just wait, though.  That day is coming.

  9. Kay of MT

    I quit watching after the 2002-2003 games when I found out the judges had determined a month in advance who the gold winners would be in the ice skating competitions. The best pair in the world at that time were the Canadians but they gave the gold to a Russian pair that messed up big time on the ice. Michelle Kwan, the best woman skater in the world placed 3rd. For your watching pleasure Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to Love Story 2002-03 Olympics.

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+tube+jamie+sale+and+david+pelletier&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=19D8291AD9865A89838C19D8291AD9865A89838C

  10. Paul Dougherty
    James Atkins: the biathlon is the only Olympic sport worth anything  · 29 minutes ago

    Apparently it is huge in Europe (Germany) due to it being a excellent platform for placing bets. Alot of over/unders in various stars shooting clean in prone or standing and what-not.

  11. Tom Davis

    Biathlon, curling, hockey, ski jumping, and some of the snowboarding stuff is great.  Most of the rest is pretty boring. 

  12. Jaclyn

    I gave it up when professionals started being acceptable in certain sports.

  13. Nick Stuart

    To paraphrase an aphorism I once heard about football, the Olympics are dozens of people desperately in need of rest, being watched by millions of people desperately in need of exercise.

  14. Dan Hanson

    Aside from all the excellent points made in the article, corruption is a huge problem in the Olympics.   Not just corruption of the judges, but the IOC itself has become a militant cash-grabbing machine.   Bribery and kickbacks are common.  

    The IOC is increasingly becoming the main funnel through which all the various sports federations get their funding.  The IOC tightly controls all the revenue generated during and between Olympics, and then doles that money out to various groups as it sees fit.  This gives it a large amount of control over amateur sports in general, which it uses to push agendas, punish dissidents, and in general put itself in a position of power over others. 

    It also goes after anyone who it sees as profiting from the Olympics without its approval – often on specious grounds.  In Vancouver the IOC tried to shut down a local pizzaria called “Olympic Pizza”, even though the place had been around for decades, and the IOC should have no claim over the word ‘Olympic’, since it describes a contest that has existed for thousands of years.

    This year there are new complaints that the ice dancing competition is rigged.  The IOC refuses to investigate.

  15. EThompson

    But I don’t like the way the modern olympics play out. They are an enormous waste of money, often used for the purposes of glorifying the host country’s government.

    Point taken, but gee whiz, it was fun to watch Julia Mancuso and Sage Kotsenburg.

     Edited to make note of the USA Men’s Ski Slopestyle team: Gold-Silver-Bronze! Simply spectacular.

  16. wilber forge

    Will agree as to how corrupt at all levels the Games have become. Have not watched them for a long time.

    Events as the Luge, bobsleding and some downhill were interesting though.

    If memory serves, the original games were limited to the fittest men and events were performed in the nude. Interesting reasons for this as well. Picture that happening today -

     

  17. DocJay
    EThompson

    But I don’t like the way the modern olympics play out. They are an enormous waste of money, often used for the purposes of glorifying the host country’s government.

    Point taken, but gee whiz, it wasfun to watch Julia Mancuso and Sage Kotsenburg. · 6 minutes ago

    Julia is my secretary’s cousin of sorts( giant Italian families).   They look alike but 20 year difference.

  18. Ansonia
    It’s true the Olympics do nothing to foster or promote peace . It also, probably, lowers the moral of people enduring brutal treatment, under authoritarian (or worse) regimes in countries such as Russia or North Korea, to see the world making nice with the rulers oppressing them. But even knowing all of this, I’ve still been drawn to watching ice skating couples this year. The men and women are so beautiful skating together to romantic music. And I want to take in as many memories as I can of how they looked. Pretty soon well have to see them preform, maybe in a more androgynous way, to less romantic music, in between performances of same sex ice skating couples. Or maybe they’ll just get rid of couples and move to all single skaters. I’m looking forward to the future change about as much as most men would look forward to seeing very mannish female weightlifters in bathing suits flexing their muscles on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
  19. Doug Kimball
    wilber forge: Will agree as to how corrupt at all levels the Games have become. Have not watched them for a long time.

    Events as the Luge, bobsleding and some downhill were interesting though.

    If memory serves, the original games were limited to the fittest men and events were performed in the nude. Interesting reasons for this as well. Picture that happening today -

      · 31 minutes ago

    I’m all in for women’s ice skating and skiing in the buff, but for you ladies out there, let me remind you that nude men’s events will be something of a disappointment.

  20. Doug Kimball
    Ansonia:  Pretty soon well have to see them preform, maybe in a more androgynous way, to less romantic music, in between performances of same sex ice skating couples. I’m looking forward to that change about as much as most men would look forward to seeing very mannish female weightlifters in bathing suits flexing their muscles on the cover of Sports Illustrated. · 10 minutes ago

    Edited 1 minute ago

    It might not be so bad…

    powerlift.jpg

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