If you’re like me, you’ve probably had it up to here with the Olympics, not to mention the continuing saga of Ryan Lochte and company. Who’s Ryan Lochte, you ask? Seriously? Where have you been, living in a cave? Or, to quote comedian Steve Martin: “Excuuuuuuse me!”
The point I’m trying to make is this: How much do we really care about the Olympics? The last time I truly cared was when a bunch of rag-tag American ice hockey players defeated the, then, Soviet Union’s, mostly professional team, in the semi-finals of the 1980 winter games in Lake Placid. “Do you believe in miracles?” Remember? (Al Michaels is still making a living off that little piece of dramatic prose.)
The problem with the Olympics—winter and summer—is that they are a mixed blessing for whichever country hosts them. In 2018, it will be Pyongyang, South Korea’s misfortune to hold the summer games. Why do I say misfortune? Because generally the host country loses money—lots of money—in the process. Even before it is “awarded” the games, a potential host city must invest tens of millions of dollars in improvements to its air, land, and, if necessary, sea travel facilities in an effort to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to grant it the “privilege” of hosting the games. Chicago spent nearly $100 million in its effort to secure the 2016 summer games—and lost! Imagine how much more they could have surrendered had they won? In 1976, host city, Montreal, overspent by nearly a trillion dollars in putting on the games.
Another thing. The games last too long. By the end of the first week, we’re already weary of trying to manage the recording settings on our DVRs, and then we must find time to watch such arcane events as the canoe slalom, badminton, or 10m air rifle (men’s and women’s)—sandwiched in between gymnastics, swimming, soccer, and track. It’s kind of like the Academy Awards, with a prize for every individual who ever snipped a piece of film, or carried a cup of coffee to a star’s dressing room. Enough already! Is it any wonder that hardly anyone watched—nor cared to watch—the closing ceremonies this year? I know I didn’t.
Granted, we had the women’s gymnastics team winning our hearts and lots of gold. The swimmers (men and women) churned up lots of frothy victories. But did hosting the games change anything for the average Brazilian citizen? Of course not. The crime rate continued to burgeon, and the Zika virus went on spreading (all the way to South Beach in Miami by now). And who will fill up those empty stadiums, now that the games are gone? No one. They’ll most likely be vandalized, or converted into “almost affordable” housing.
Back to Ryan Lochte. In case you actually have been living in a cave for the last few news cycles, he’s one of four US swimmers who managed to embarrass our country with their foolish behavior in Rio de Janeiro. The 32-year-old Lochte, a classic example of the entitled athlete, got plastered, along with his pals, trashed a gas station bathroom, and then lied about it in Olympic fashion, concocting a ridiculous story of being held up at gunpoint. When the truth was revealed, he lost four, major sponsors and untold millions as a result. Aw, what a shame. But America has a short memory, and, no doubt, he’ll recoup his losses and then some (last I heard, he’d been signed to appear on Dancing with the Stars). See?
The bottom line, the Olympics are much like summers: they’re either too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too dry—but we can’t wait for the next one!