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October 02, 2009

The Olympics: A Modest Proposal

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Today's earth-shattering news is that the 2016 Olympics are to be held in Rio and not Chicago.

Unlike many commentators, I'll set aside the matter of the incompetence of Our Blessed Leader and his Crack Advisory Team in their public-relations-stunt effort to persuade the IOC to anoint the City of the Big Shoulders as the site.

Instead, I express relief that some other nation has to scrape up the money to pay for that increasingly bloated monstrosity of a sports circus.

Living in Seattle, I'm only a three-hour drive from the Vancouver, BC fringes of the 2010 Winter Games. That's way too close for comfort, especially because February is the one part of next winter that I'll be here and not in California.

I grumble because I consider the Olympics to be too large, too expensive, too professionalized, too politicized and too televised. Turn the clock back to 1924 or even 1912 if it can't be turned all the way back to the 1896 Athens games.

Which leads me to the Modest Proposal mentioned in the title above. For some time now, a host nation is allowed to add a new sport to the event roster. This has been one of the bloat factors.

I propose that, starting with the 2012 Olympics, the host nation eliminates an event. Immune from this shaving would be the events staged in, say, the 1908 games. Therefore, by 2100, the Olympic Games will be small enough that each remaining event could be better appreciated.

So that settles that. And it ought to help reduce the cost of hosting the games. Now we have to come up with ways to dial back professionalization, international politics and lousy TV coverage.



posted by Donald at October 2, 2009


When I was a kid I was taken to see the Melrose Games in the old Madison Square Garden. This was a track and field event and the thing that was so thrilling about it, the reason it still lives in my mind, is that it was so intimate. In the old Garden, especially if you had upper deck seats, you were practically leaning over the field, or at least it felt that way. When the pole vaulter attempted his 15 foot high vault he practically vaulted into your lap. And all the events were the beautiful classic events that had hardly changed since the Greeks. Anyway, that intimacy won't be returning. Nor will the limit on events. Not in the Olympics. The Olympics leave me cold.

Posted by: ricpic on October 2, 2009 3:29 PM

I have a proposal for the Olympics. Let's have an event, similar to a decathalon but with 20 intead of 10 subevents, such that the winner of this event can make the plausible claim that they are the best athlete on the planet. Have some running, swimming, jumping, fighting, and shooting events included within the 20, with a very strong bias towards events where subjective judging is minimized.
The winner of the event gets to pick where the next Olympics will be. Using whatever criteria/bribe/etc they damn well want, subject only to the requirement that the city has to meet the basic infrastructure requirements.
After all, the IOC and search groups are going to be rife with graft anyway, why not make all the rent-seeking above the board and benefit the victor :-)

Posted by: David on October 2, 2009 7:28 PM

In the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics, I recall people fretting about the too-too-sick-making possibility that politics should prevent this friendly, global sporting event. I tried to imagine the glee that these delicate souls would have felt had only they been present at that great co-mingling of cultures from all over the world in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Many of the nations in the Olympics nowadays are at least as bad as the 1936 German government (they lack only the ability, not the will, to commit similar atrocities). We shouldn't be 'making nice' with them.

The Olympics are for naive, deluded fools.

Posted by: Epikerm on October 2, 2009 8:54 PM

Here, here!

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 2, 2009 9:16 PM

I liked the Olympics as depicted in Chariots of Fire. Less pharmaceutical, I suspect.

Posted by: dearieme on October 3, 2009 5:14 AM

Greco-Roman wrestling only, I say.

Posted by: Evan McLaren on October 3, 2009 11:18 AM

I love the Olympics. It's a spectacle, and the politicking and wrangling in getting the event staged is somewhat depressing, but once the it actually starts, it's thrilling. I mainly focus on track and field and rowing. And you gotta love the opening and closing ceremonies for pure pomp, if not much circumstance.

I like the Winter Olympics even more. I guess I'm naive.

Posted by: JV on October 5, 2009 6:28 PM

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