The Olympic Torch Arrives in Brazil

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Once again, we will be tortured with that every-four-year event known as the Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in early August.  Does anyone really watch these things anymore?  For me, it got a lot less interesting when they started allowing professional athletes in the games.  We all knew that the Soviet Union and teams from East Germany were putting professionals on the field or ice competing against American amateurs, but there was so much more satisfaction in the fact that a group of college athletes from the United States crushed these Commie professionals.  Now, we get the international equivalent of an NBA all-star game with all the strategy and “competitiveness” of that game.

This year, the Olympic Committee is allowing some new games that should create all the excitement of a Canadian running down the ice with a broom in a curling match.  They are “matches,” correct?  There were slots for two new sports and seven sports applied for those two slots: baseball (which was dropped in 2005), softball, karate, squash (I thought that was a vegetable), golf, roller sports and 7-man rugby.  The geniuses at the Olympics accepted seven-member rugby meaning baseball, roller sports and squash were eliminated.  Then for the other sport, they chose golf.

Nothing against rugby- I understand it is real big in places like England- but it is kind of discriminatory.  I really cannot see Zimbabwe sending a rugby team to the Olympics this year.  In fact, I cannot see too many African nations sending a rugby team.  This is clearly designed to increase the number of Olympic medals awarded to majority-white nations like England, Ireland and Australia.  As for golf, could they have picked a more boring sport?  I have nothing against golf; I know a lot of people who play golf.  But, I never really understood its appeal.  There is very little exercise involved, unless you forego that little cart and walk from hole to hole in which case why not just walk?  And you don’t even have to carry that heavy bag.  Plus, there is this whole wardrobe that goes along with it.

Instead, the Olympic Committee should have just combined the seven sports into one- sort of a new Olympic heptathlon- seven man rugby followed by seven-on-seven intramural baseball where half the game is played with a baseball and the other half with a softball, then 9 holes of golf (nine, because we don’t want to tire out the athletes), then a karate match with squash rackets (no…real squashes), closed out by roller sports (definition to be determined).  I’d love to see Tiger Woods take on some Russian rugby player in a squash karate match.

Then there are the other sports like gymnastics (always a favorite), swimming where we can watch fully shaved men swim and dive, track and field (of course), and the others.  However, I suggest we eliminate synchronized swimming because its just silly and a good routine hasn’t been performed since that Inquisition scene in Mel Brooks’ The History of the World.  While we’re at it, we need to get rid of badminton (that’s there just so India wins something), and table tennis.  But even with swimming and track and field we should reduce the number of events.  In swimming, get rid of all the relay events and that silly looking breaststroke thing.  In track and field, anything longer than 800 meters is just plain boring also.  No one wants to see the marathon.

But the one things that really ticks this writer off about the Olympics is the television coverage which is, ironically, short on actual athletics and long on special interest stories about how an athlete from some God-forsaken country overcame adversity through sports.  There will be the story how little Peebo from the streets of some town you see on late night television as Sally Struthers tries to get you to support that child grows up to be the surprise member of the fencing team from Uruguay.  Save the special interest stories for late night commercials and show me some sports…

Like beach volleyball.  Whoever invented this sport and got it into the Olympics is a genius.  Especially the women’s competition.  And feminists complain about a bathing suit competition in some beauty pageant?  Face it: most people (men) watch the Olympics not because they have a vested interest in who wins the dressage competition in the equestrian portion of the games.  Besides, those equestrian types wear way too much clothing.  In fact, look at the popular sports: track, beach volleyball, swimming and gymnastics.  They are exactly the four sports where the competitors show the most skin.  Fencing?  They even cover their faces and female weightlifters are just too scary looking and possibly men.  Everything else?  Too many clothes.

But the saddest part of the Olympics is that all these countries compete for the games years in advance.  They spend inordinate amounts of money building fancy venues, housing for the athletes and all the security that goes along with it.  The locals are inconvenienced as roads are closed because some cycling competition is using it, etc.  And at the end of 16 days what are they left with?  The bill and a nice venue that will not be used again.  At least Brazil can hope for a World Cup soccer match or something, but I don’t see too many people flocking to London, Beijing, Athens or even Atlanta to take advantage of the facilities built for an Olympic game.

Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but in August I am counting down the days to the start of the next NHL season with an eye on the baseball standings.  Now, ice hockey is a real sport.  You have to appreciate an athlete who loses three teeth and gets his face stitched on the bench while play continues and he doesn’t miss a shift.  However, the Olympics went and ruined even that by allowing NHL players to compete.  Even still, its the most interesting Olympic sport that does not include a bikini and a volleyball.