The Olympics: Why You Should Care
The Olympics: Why You Should Care
The 2010 Winter Olympics start tomorrow night in Vancouver. We asked two writers—one who loves the spirit of the Games and another who thinks the Olympics are an overrated media blitz—to stage a debate about whether the Olympics even matter anymore. Read side one of this argument: The Olympics: I'm Just Not That Into It. Then read below for the counter argument. And now we'll pose the question to you: Do you care about the Winter Olympics? Let us know in the comments section below.
Sure, American skiing could use a Lance Armstrong. But the beauty of the Olympics—the historic, moving, televised-to-billions Olympics—is that it elevates thousands of athletes to a spotlight that’s usually reserved for a handful of transcendent, once-in-a generation athletes like Lance. See that 20-year-old on the podium, tears streaming down her face as her national anthem plays for billions, every single dream she’s had since she was six years old coming true in that moment? That’s her Lance moment, and we should care.
In the sixth grade, Mr. Taylor had us study the Olympic Games—the history, the different events, the worldwide love-fest of it all. From that point on, I was enthralled with what is the pinnacle of sport, any sport. Waiting four years (before the summer and winter Games alternated every two years) to watch the coolest thing ever on TV was painful, and I’d start getting excited for each Olympics about a full year before they happened.
Let’s talk about TV. If not for the Olympics, billions of people would never, ever, see a ski race. Yes, the Olympics is cheesed up by human interest stories. Coverage often skims over the actual races, and spends chunks of time playing sappy music and telling a skier’s back-story. This is the stuff advertisers love, because it’s the stuff viewers—even the ones who couldn’t care less about skiing—love. It’s the hook in the proverbial fish, and that fish pays the bills. Plus, it’s the kind of insight into a skier (hello, Bill Johnson) that you just don’t get with the World Cup. It makes the public care about skiing.
And let’s talk about that World Cup. The season-long consistency required to be a World Cup Champion may have more cache for skiers than being able to compete well in one event every four years, but skiers need to respect the Olympics (hello, Bode).
American skiers who have succeeded on the Olympic stage—the Mahres, Johnny Mosley, Picabo Street—are forever embedded not only in the minds of skiers, but in the public eye (which is more than a World Cup Champion who didn’t perform in the Olympics can say). Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve had a skier on a Wheaties box (the Mahres were the last). But it’s time. C’mon Lindsey, Ted, and bump skier Hannah Kearney.
And come on, people. Let’s get behind our skiers the way other countries get behind theirs. (Who’s fault is it that a photo of Michael Phelps puffin’ something gets more interest than his butterfly?) Plop yourself down in front of that boob tube tomorrow night for the opening ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Games, little American flag in hand, and care, dammit.
As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t get chills when the Olympic anthem is being played, well, then, you’re just dead inside.
For more on our coverage of the Winter Olympics, go to www.skiingmag.com/keyword/olympics-2010.