Sunday, July 1, 2012

The overhyped Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics will be here in three weeks.  It is a once every four years festival, akin to World Cup Football.  It commands a great deal of attention and money, to the widest audience possible as well as to the majority of the competitors.  For them, their sports are little known to the lay people, so Olympics will be almost the only platform to showcase the sports to millions of viewers.  After all, a gold in shooting is the same as a gold in tennis. 

Olympics, however, has becomes largely a show business, and there are downsides with so much attention paid to Olympics.  The foremost is that it is too nationalistic.  It would be nice if the organizers do away with or minimize the national flag and anthem routine.  In practical terms, everybody knows which country the winner represents already.  A compromise could be you do the flag and anthem thing for only the first gold won by any country.  Even professional sports, like MLB, French Open tennis, play the flag and/or anthem, so we are absolutely saturated in our life.

The second is that Olympics have quotas.  A country has only three, often two, representatives to fight for an individual gold, and you can be world number 4 or even number 1 but be excluded.  We all know sports results are unpredictable.  Lowering the number of participants reduces the chance of upsets and deprives some truly worthy competitors a chance of winning.  So winning an Olympic gold should be evaluated based on who the winner beats and how, and should not be an automatic crowning as the best in a sport.

The third is that athletes, especially those not in professional sports like golf, tennis, and MLB, have attached so much importance to Olympics that they and the public actually suffer as a result.  Most sports are unlike swimming or track where you can do 10 events at once.  Realistically, you have no more than two shots in Olympic Games with one or two golds available each time.  If a world champion doesn't qualify for one Olympics for any reason and does not win in his chance four years later, he loses the biggest goal in his professional life.  Many people retire soon after Olympics not because they are no longer competitive, but because they realize they will be too old when the next Olympics comes.  Furthermore, athletes train for their best shapes during the summer, so you typically see so-so performances in sports up to one year prior to the Olympics and months after that.  They dispense less energy during matches and resort to excuses like avoiding injuries or preparing for the Olympics for their losses.  Athletes all say on TV it is such a honor to represent your country in Olympics.  True, but you also represent your country whenever you take part in any international competitions, and you should have the same, high standard throughout your career, not just once every four years.

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