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.