Saturday, February 11, 2006

Borino 2006: The Winter Olympics

Opening Ceremonies at Turin, Italy.  Photo by Reuters.The cover of today's Washington Post shows the beautiful fireworks display during the Opening Ceremonies of the 20th Winter Games in Turin (Torino), Italy. The paper reports that the total cost of the games could reach $4 billion. All I can think is: what a waste.

I've been increasingly frustrated with the onslaught of coverage of boring sports and athletes taking over the airwaves. It's sad to see how desperate NBC and the Winter Games' sponsors are to find a good "angle", a way to sell this month's snoozefest to the public. Hence we get to see no-namers like Bode Miller and some guy called "The Flying Tomato" get cover stories in the paper with their asinine quotes. Ooh, they're extreme. Who cares?

I'm all for international competition. The Summer Olympics are great. I like watching the Euro Cup, World Cup, World Hockey Championships, etc, and I'm eagerly anticipating the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Matches between countries in any sport, generally speaking, are fun. But the Winter Games are a crock.

First off, at least half the world can't compete in the vast majority of the events, owing to the whole "lack of winter" or "lack of mountains" thing. Also, as a recent Sunday Outlook article pointed out, economic considerations are a big factor--the typical bobsled costs $35,000 to make, excluding the track. The Summer Olympics are much more faithful to the "Faster, Higher, Stronger" motto, and Kenyans don't have to worry about spending thousands of dollars to practice running a marathon. The Winter Games, on the other hand, are made for Scandanavians, Canadians, and Americans to compete at different ways to go down a snowy hill. Sure, a lot of these athletes are talented at doing just that, but it will never be compelling TV.

The Winter Games aren't completely bereft of any redeeming quality. Some people actually watch figure skating. And yes, I would love to see Michelle Kwan get a gold. Then there's hockey. Over two decades ago, the Winter Games produced perhaps the most scintillating game in sports history: the 1980 "Miracle on Ice". But today, with the U.S. lacking such a giant competitive foe to stake national prestige against, it's no wonder that Americans are immune to the giant corporate ad blitz thrown at them. Alas, if only al-Qaeda had a curling team...


abt said...

i got no problem with skiing, boarding, and hockey. to me theyre more interesting than baseball any day. admittedly its a sad truth that many countries cant compete...but on the other hand, you know the average american didnt not watch the winter olympics just because kenya didnt have a bobsled team.

Jay said...

And yet, Americans pay close attention to the Summer Olympics, where they watch sports like gymnastics, track and field, swimming, volleyball, and other stuff they normally barely pay attention to. People cared about Michael Phelps medal quest or the Paul Hamm controversy in the most recent summer games. The Winter Games, in my memory, have never drawn such recognition.