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.

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  1. Profile photo of Carey J. Inactive
    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.

    • #1
    • February 14, 2014 at 1:04 am
  2. Profile photo of kmtanner Inactive

    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.

    • #2
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:47 am
  3. Profile photo of Doug Kimball Member

    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.

    • #3
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:50 am
  4. Profile photo of Michael Staughton Inactive

    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…

    • #4
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:50 am
  5. Profile photo of Mike LaRoche Thatcher

    I haven’t watched the Olympics since 1992.

    • #5
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:50 am
  6. Profile photo of JamesAtkins Member

    the biathlon is the only Olympic sport worth anything 

    • #6
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:50 am
  7. Profile photo of Danny Alexander Inactive

    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.

    • #7
    • February 14, 2014 at 3:59 am
  8. Profile photo of Seawriter Member

    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.

    • #8
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:07 am
  9. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    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

    • #9
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:07 am
  10. Profile photo of Paul Dougherty Member
    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.

    • #10
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:24 am
  11. Profile photo of Tom Davis Member

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

    • #11
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:31 am
  12. Profile photo of Jaclyn Inactive

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

    • #12
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:31 am
  13. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Thatcher

    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.

    • #13
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:33 am
  14. Profile photo of Dan Hanson Thatcher

    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.

    • #14
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:34 am
  15. Profile photo of EThompson Inactive

    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.

    • #15
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:44 am
  16. Profile photo of wilber forge Inactive

    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 –

     

    • #16
    • February 14, 2014 at 4:48 am
  17. Profile photo of DocJay Member
    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.

    • #17
    • February 14, 2014 at 5:08 am
  18. Profile photo of Ansonia Member
    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.
    • #18
    • February 14, 2014 at 5:16 am
  19. Profile photo of Doug Kimball Member
    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.

    • #19
    • February 14, 2014 at 5:24 am
  20. Profile photo of Doug Kimball Member
    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

    • #20
    • February 14, 2014 at 5:31 am
  21. Profile photo of J Climacus Member
    genferei:

    Biathlon rocks, and harkens back to the source of many of the serious winter sports, military training. · 6 hours ago

    I love the biathlon as well, and it is essentially basic training for winter troops: Mobility and firepower. The Finns took it to the Russians in the Winter War of of ’39-’40 because they were better biathletes.

    Kind of shoots a hole (pun intended) in the whole “Olympics are about peace” meme, however.

     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Finn_ski_troops.jpg

    • #21
    • February 14, 2014 at 5:57 am
  22. Profile photo of Pony Convertible Member

    Your comments about the expenses applies to the NFL and NBA.

    The biathlon comes from a manly tradition. Back in the day, in Nordic Countries, a man went out and braved the elements on skis and with his rifle to bring home food for the family. Seeing game on a far away ridge, he would ski over and take his shot. If he couldn’t make the shot while breathing hard (very very difficult), then his kids went hungry. Now those same countries are socialists, so the man turns to the government when the kids are hungry. Since their men no longer have manly responsibilities, they made up a game to make them feel like men.

    • #22
    • February 14, 2014 at 6:00 am
  23. Profile photo of Jo Inactive
    Jo

    I agree. I love watching the events but all the blah blah about the Olympic spirit is tedious. And the coverage narratives never changes: “the city isn’t ready and it will be a disaster;” or “it will transform the city/country!” I lived in Beijing during the 2008 Games, so believe me I heard it all. The city was ready, despite the gloom and doom predictions, and the country was not transformed. We got a lot of new subway lines, though, so I guess that was good!

    • #23
    • February 14, 2014 at 6:03 am
  24. Profile photo of SEnkey Member

    I’m glad to hear that I am not in the minority. I catch so much gruff for my general disinterest in the Olympics. 

    A few more reasons to dislike it:

    It gives Bob Costas a platform. (or it did)

    It eats up good programming time when basketball or hockey should be on.

    The US is in a no win situation. If we win a bunch of medals, people think we are the bullies grandstanding because we are the best (we are the best). If we lose, it’s like the fall of the evil galactic empire. The under dog beat us, etc. 

    Nah, I pass. 

    • #24
    • February 14, 2014 at 6:10 am
  25. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder

    “The Olympics is the United Nations with a medal platform.”

    Devastating. And gorgeous. 

    • #25
    • February 14, 2014 at 7:04 am
  26. Profile photo of JustinC Inactive
    Peter Robinson: “The Olympics is the United Nations with a medal platform.”

    Devastating. And gorgeous. · 3 minutes ago

    Peter: YOU are awesome.

    • #26
    • February 14, 2014 at 7:18 am
  27. Profile photo of EPG Inactive
    EPG
    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

     . . . . 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. · 6 hours ago

    In addition, modern pentathlon is based on skills which would have been practiced by late 19th century aristocrats, which, when the modern era of the games began, was basically the pool of participants. 

    That said, I love the fact that both the biathlon and pentathlon are in the games. Wouldn’t watch either, though. 

     

    • #27
    • February 14, 2014 at 7:45 am
  28. Profile photo of paulebe Member

    Loathe everything about the Olympics. The idea of an “Olympic movement” is poppycock. The IAOC is hopelessly corrupt, seemingly modeled after another collection of criminals – The United Nations – an arguably more corrupt body full of kleptocrats, thugs, and terrorists posing as leading a peaceful movement meant to bring “peace in our time”. Rubbish. Waste of time, money, and real estate.

    I would be thrilled if the USA would stop trying to “win” the games and just let the dictators and thugs have at it and blow their countries wealth on massive stadiums, velodromes, rinks, ski jumping hills, etc.

    I’ve completely soured on the economic benefits of World Cups, Super Bowls, and other massive sporting events. The fact that municipalities have to pour billions of dollars into renovation, mass transit, law enforcement, and other infrastructure to host a sporting event has long lost it’s value. We can’t afford bread and circuses.

    • #28
    • February 14, 2014 at 7:50 am
  29. Profile photo of Eric Jablow Inactive
    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.

    • #29
    • February 14, 2014 at 7:55 am
  30. Profile photo of Salvatore Padula Member

    You are forgetting what the Olympics are all about: giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver, and shameful bronze.

    • #30
    • February 14, 2014 at 8:11 am
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