August 8, 2008

Every four years…

by Dan Bilicki In: Olympics

The Olympics come and go every four years and for some reason, people dedicate their lives to these games. Athletes train day in and day out for the chance to compete in a silly event that occurs every four years. Sure, they have some smaller events in the time in between The Games, but for the large part it’s all leading up to one chance to do one thing on a huge stage. How silly is that? Four years of torture for a few minutes in the sun? Why not train for something more worthwhile? Winning the gold at kayaking isn’t going to make you a hero.

The Games have been severely tarnished by a multitude of outside forces. There’s the presence of professional athletes at an amateur event, political protesting of every single —significant or non — issue and last but not least, doping scandals across the board. How can we take any athlete seriously at this event when we know there’s a large chance that they’ve at one time or another used some sort of performance enhancing drug? If you think the Tour de France got it bad on the doping front, the Summer Games suffered just as much.

The Intern will be bringing coverage of the Olympic basketball tournament to RTP but just because it is a marquee event doesn’t mean it should be. Is there a real reason why the pros are in Beijing other to open up the basketball market? They’re just furthering the perception that this event is a made-for-television ratings giant, even if it is in an awkward time zone relative to North America. NBA superstars have no right to participate in the Olympics, just like some soccer pros who have decided to leave their team’s training camps and NHLers in the winter games. There are separate tournaments for these guys on the international level and they shouldn’t compete at an event that is meant for the best amateurs in the world. I’d much rather be watching the best guys from the NCAA play international youngsters than this.

As for the Games being made-for-television, well, it’s hard to argue that they’re not. Every event’s broadcast coverage will feature promos and features of every athlete so you can get to know them and trust them so they can sell the products being pushed the next commercial break. Having a line below a guy hocking a new LG phone that says “2008 Olympic medalist,” is more likely to get a customer to snap it up than if the guy had just spent four years training to trip over the first hurdle.

These Games were made for advertising, made to generate revenue and now, perhaps shockingly, made to draw in women viewers. Don’t believe me guys? Are you the one who’s staying tuned to the soft feature about the diver who overcame vertigo or is it your lady-friend beside you? Guys want to watch the guys run the 100 metre dash; they don’t want to know every detail about the guy from Ethiopia’s life story.

Needless to say, you won’t see me staying up late to watch any of the Beijing Games. I’ll just stew and be upset that every sports outlet will be bludgeoning me over the head with the Olympics for the next few weeks while an even more important event is going on: NFL Training Camp.

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