Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remembering Why We Love the Olympics

As the Beijing Olympics roll on, I think it would be appropriate to remember why everyone is so interested. It's not about Micheal Phelps (or his gold medals) or the Redeem Team. One of the reasons is because it brings the world together. But that's not the only reason.

Why are people watching the Olympics? Most people think there is a easy answer to this questions. Simply, because it's the Olympics. Well that's not a good enough answer. Nobody watches Micheal Phelps in the World Championships. And even after these Olympics, nobody will watch him in any competition until London. Track and field does get better ratings than swimming outside the Olympics, but the ratings go through the roof for the Olympics.

So why do people watch these events that would mean nothing to them three out of every four years. Not many people care about gymnastics or swimming or track and field or team handball. I think people feel that they can relate to it. Anybody can run. You can live in the farthest reaches of the world and still have the dream of being a sprinter.

I could walk down to the public pool right now and swim. It seems so easy (when in reality, swimming that fast is hard). The rules are so simple. First one to touch the wall wins or first one to cross the line first. It makes baseball seem complicated.

That makes me think of the extreme pressure put on these athletes, especially if they're from the host nation. You have the weight of your country on you. And if you make one error (how many times have you heard on NBC, "that little hop on the landing will bring a three-tenths point deduction") you have failed. You train you whole life for one race or one floor exercise. And if you have one bad showing, you are viewed as a disappointment. Even if you win gold, nobody will care about you until the next Olympiad (if you good enough to qualify.)

So think about that when you watch the Olympics tonight.................

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