Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Keeping it real



Faster. Higher. (Yawn). Stronger. The Olympic mantra is tired. Worn out. Kind of like the Games themselves.

There is certain ridiculousness to the whole Olympic movement that borders on farce, underpinned by the glaring lack of relevance of many events to the average viewer.

There is a lot about the Olympics that is great and always will be, but, let's face it, there are a lot of events that could get axed tomorrow with nary a tear from the general public — though no doubt plenty of tears from athletes that spent 10,000 hours training for an obscure sport that is only broadcast every four years. It's also pretty obvious that there are a lot of sports that should be included but are not.

I get tradition, especially when it comes to core sports like running. The 100-metre dash is awesome, and will always be awesome because people will always care who the fastest man in the world is at this point in time. I can care about who can throw a 16-pound shotput the farthest because we've been doing that competitively for 500 years since the first cannonball rolled off a cart. Raw power is never dull.

But do we honestly care who wins air rifle? Synchronized swimming (or synchro anything for that matter)? Are villagers in Africa and India gathered around televisions watching dressage? European handball? The strange mix of fencing, horse riding, swimming, shooting and running that is the Modern Pentathlon?

Speed walking? (Sorry, "racewalking" — that's way cooler.)

Swimming is a fine, legitimate sport, but is the 100M breaststroke really that much different in the eyes of the average viewer than the 200M breaststroke? How can one man, Michael Phelps, possibly win eight gold medals at a single Games? Is he eight times better as an athlete than the soccer player or marathoner who wins just one gold medal, or just a really good swimmer doing the same basic thing over and over in the pool while piling up the rewards?

The Games do try in their own way to keep up with the world, but with a four-year cycle between events, an already huge list of sports and a stodgy committee of white European chauvinists still running the show (not long ago, IOC board members were appointed by other members for life), the pace of innovation is a little bit off. It's difficult to get new sports added, and even harder to get existing sports removed — especially when one or more countries with voting members on the IOC relies on that sport to deliver medals. It quickly becomes political — "You don't vote to cut badminton and I won't vote to cut steeplechase."

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