8 things I don’t understand about the summer Olympics

Like most Americans, I’m glued to the television watching the Olympic games.   Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter – I love watching them both when it’s in season.   I remember watching my first Olympics back in 1980 as a ten-year old.  I was mesmerized with the athletes and their pursuit of gold.  I remember jumping up and down on my couch (literally) when the United States Hockey Team beat “USSR” in the last few moments of the gold medal championship match.  Four years later, I repeated the couch jumping celebration with Mary Lou Retton’s perfect ten performance in the gymnastics competition.   Both were magical experiences etched into my memory.  Few things infuse a shot of patriotism into a citizen like watching the Olympic games.

As much as I love the games, however, there are several things I just don’t understand about these Summer Olympics.  Perhaps you resonate with the following areas?  If you have any “light” to shed on these (or wish to add any of your own commentary), I’d love to hear them.

  1. Post-competition Interviews.  Why must we interview these athletes seconds after they competed?   Most of them can barely breathe after such physical exertion and we are shoving a microphone in their face asking them to talk about their experience.  Can’t we wait five minutes for them to catch their breath before we hear their side of the story?
  2. Interviewers.   Where do we come up with these people?  Where do they come up with their questions?   Just prior to an Olympic match one interviewer asked a coach, “What is your plan with tonight’s game?”   Seriously?   Um, how about win?   Or, here’s a profound answer – outscore the opponent?  Apparently I am not the only one fed up with some of the questions.  There have been over 160 complaints filed against the BBC for such ludicrous and “insensitive” questions.
  3. Handball.  How did that become an Olympic sport?   How does one get on the Olympic team?  From what I recall, we played that sport twice in gym class in 7th grade and then never played it again.   Was that my Olympic try-out and I did not know it?   Was some Olympic coach watching us with a clipboard to see who had the potential to “go for gold?”  Since no American team has ever won a medal in the sport, our gym classes probably need to offer it more than twice.  Just sayin’.
  4. The scoring system for sports like Gymnastics.   Unlike most other competitions, the scoring for this sport is mostly subjective.  It’s like having an Olympic art competition.  How can you judge certain aspects of a routine?  Absent a glaring mistake, how can you possibly deduct points for a seemingly “perfect” routine?  One judge might score a 9.0 while another scores an 7.5.  Why the discrepancy?  I think this needs to be addressed as it provides an inconsistency in scoring and allows an opportunity for corruption among the judges.
  5. Diving competition.   How in the world do these divers get their bodies to spin so many times in so many different directions before hitting the water?  How in the world do you even practice that?   The only way I could imagine my body doing such twists and turns is if I was somehow in a deep, R.E.M. sleep on the diving board and then was suddenly pushed off.   Then, and only then could I possibly come close to making such turns.  Of course, my arms would be flapping like a duck in a tornado – I’m sure you lose points for that.  I certainly wouldn’t land gracefully or head first.
  6. Synchronized swimming.  For starters, it’s extremely impressive.  How do they do match their bodies so perfectly?  Having said that, how can anyone admit (out loud) that they do this for a living?   How do you coach that sport?  Coach: “Your knee and her knee were not in synch.  Do it again.”  Also, why hasn’t the synchronized idea caught on to other sports?  Why don’t we have synchronized running?  Or synchronized weight lifting?  And I have a problem with the subjective scoring in this sport as well.
  7. Badminton.   Seriously?  How did that become an Olympic sport?  Was there a shortage of sports when the Olympic committee decided to let that one in?  The only thing funnier than it being an official Olympic sport is the shuttlecock scandal that rocked the competition this year in London.   Olympic athletes intentionally playing like me?   Had I foreseen that move, I would have tried out for our own team this year.
  8. The expense it costs to host an Olympics.   Though there are some cities that actually profit from hosting the Olympics (Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Beijing), most suffer enormous losses.  Montreal, for example, hosted the 1976 Olympics and it reportedly took them over 30 years to finally pay off that debt.   In this global recession, is it wise for certain cities to risk hosting the games for the potential financial payoff in return?  It has been reported that the financial trouble that bankrupted the Greek government was because of its overspending as host of the Olympics.  (Reference: Victor Matheson, a member of the Sports Economist group blog)

Regardless of my questions, the ridiculous answers or the sports I don’t really appreciate, I love watching these games and seeing the best of the best compete.   For 17 days, I get to cheer and route for local hometown kids who have given their lives to a sport I may barely identify with.

Still, it’s fun to watch.  And thanks to Michael Phelps and the women’s beach volleyball teams, I’ve done plenty of jumping up and down on my couch this year.  If that were an Olympic sport, I’d be wearing gold by now.

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