It’s the rest of the stuff that has me irked.
Firstly, over-the-top, indulgent and unnecessary spectacles cost millions (some say 1 billion+) dollars. Yes, the opening and closing ceremonies are fun to watch, but are they really worth it? When neighbouring countries are fighting off bankruptcy; much of the third world is starving or dying of disease; and the rest of the first world is trying to recover from a major recession (depression?), it doesn’t seem like the best use of resources. But that’s just me.
Then there are the ever-changing rules that have eroded the original sentiment and meaning of the games. When professional athletes were allowed to compete (one example is basketball), I felt like the spirit of the Olympics died. It was no longer a revered arena for amateur sport – it had bowed to the money-hungry advertisers’ need for spectacle. The big, flashy names and well-known personas are, apparently, what viewers want to see (and what brings in the most money), not the (relatively) no-name athletes who dedicate four years of their lives to compete on the world’s stage, often struggling financially in order to pursue their dreams. There is something inherently humbling and inspiring about reaching for the stars against all odds. And, when multi-millionaires from the NBA compete at the games, I feel like the playing field has somehow been skewed. Or, at the very least, that the spirit of the Olympics has been compromised.
Then there’s doping. When Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal for Canada due to a positive drug test, I knew any faith I had left in the Games was shattered for good. Everything the Olympics stood for was, to my mind, contradictory to what I saw. Yes, there were amazing examples of courage and, ultimately, victory. But I was already jaded, a cynic for life.
I won’t deny that I feel pride when my country takes home a medal. It’s hard not to get swept up just a little and, seeing as it pervades nearly every media segment for two weeks, I’d be hard-pressed to escape the news coverage completely. Without a doubt, I am proud of amateur Olympic athletes who make sacrifices for the love of sport and competition…it’s just the greed-induced spectacle that I could do without.
I’d love to see the Olympics revisit their humble roots and come back transformed – less flash and more substance. Now that’s something I could get behind.