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Every Four Years

I have a complicated relationship with summer Olympic Games.  Despite all the hoopla about the international spirit of competition and celebrating these elite athletes who train for years in obscurity for their few moments in the sun, it feels more and more like a popularity contest and months-long marketing campaign to sell some mundane consumer products.  Sure, I enjoy looking at athletic men in their little Speedos as much as the next person, and I admire the amount of effort it takes to shave off one-thousandth of a second to create a new world’s record, but I don’t see how buying baby lotion or laundry detergent ties in.  (I’m talking to you, Proctor & Gamble)

But I’ll end up watching some events… like the marathon, because I don’t know very many people who can run 26 consecutive miles.  And it’s lonely to run that long. Heck, sometimes it’s lonely to DRIVE that long.   You really have to be mentally tough and comfortable up in your own head to run like that every day.  I guess it’s a bit like being a writer:  you have to be able to sustain the effort even when logic tells you that nobody would care if you just stopped right now and had a cheeseburger and nap.  But I did find an interesting little article back in May about ten games worth bringing back to the Olympics.  It was written by Victor Mather, and appeared in the New York Times of May, 22, 2012.  ( link here for anybody interested in the whole piece).  I summarize them below:

10. Twelve Hour Bicycle Race:   A real endurance test.  My butt hurts thinking about it.

9. Softball:  “Recently” dropped in 2008, but worth watching for the pitching.

8. Cricket:  Americans can’t understand it, but there’s no reason why we can’t learn.  Matches can last for days so that counts for endurance.

7. Sixteen Man Naval Rowing Boasts with Coxswain:  Just how BIG would these boats be? Just how BIG would these rowers be?  (My mind goes to 16 Armie Hammers from The Social Network)

6. 200-meter Swimming Obstacle Race:  Urban training in polluted waterways would be an advantage.

5. Tandem Bicycle, 2000 meter sprint:  Just picture it…. speed and 2 riders on one bike…. and 8 teams on a track.  Sounds more like an event for The Hunger Games.

4. Javelin, Both Hands:  Means each athlete gets 2 throws; one with each hand.  The Ambidextrous get their own event!

3. Dueling Pistols:  This only happened in the 1906 Games and the participants shot at a dummy… maybe this one should be a “pass?”

2. Cross-Country Race: Sort of like the marathon already?

1.  TUG OF WAR!!! Come on, who wouldn’t want to watch, and everybody can relate to it.  I propose the following rule:  each country can have up to 10 athletes from any discipline but the combined weight of a team can’t exceed 1000 lbs. And they have to compete barefoot.  And everybody gets a medal, OK?  Just because it’s fun.  And a cookie.

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9 thoughts on “Every Four Years

  1. Aren’t the Olympics every TWO years now? Summer this year, Winter games in two years? I’m so burnt out on sports, I pay zero attention. I haven’t even kept up with the Tour de France this year, and normally I love watching that. Probably helps that I’m a cyclist, so can better understand and appreciate that sport.

    1. I gave birth during the Barcelona Olympics, and I remember the OB walking into the delivery room complaining there were too many human interest stories back then. At the time I preferred he take more interest in MY human interest story happening right then. But I couldn’t really disagree with his assessment. Now we have multiple stations with a gazillion programming hours ~ it’s almost too much. But on the flip side, there may be some sports/athletes that will get some well-deserved exposure.

  2. as you know, i have a mild interest in sports, lol. i still look forward to the olympics (summer much more than winter), but not as much as in days of yore. there was something about the purer amateurism that also seemed to fuel the sense of patriotism in the day.

    of course back then we DIDNT have women’s beach volleyball. (hey if you get some jolleys out of men in speedos, allow me my bikini clad variant.).

    1. I’m totally in awe of the regulation beach volleyball uniform myself. Fear of exposing myself during the game would be a psychological hurdle for me. But then again, the Olympic athletes are the 0.05% of the world’s population who could walk around naked and make the world a more beautiful place.

  3. True confession: I’m a Summer Olympics geek. Not just for the pageantry of The Parade of Nations; not just b/c I love the divers in their Speedos; not just b/c I saw Olympic judo live in Atlanta in 1996 and I’llnever get over it. It’s all of the above, never a dull moment, 3 weeks when you can put on the TV at any time of the day or night and see somebody who is among the best in the world at what they do.

    1. Once again, Bunny, you bring good things to life. Celebrating the “best” of anything achieved by years of effort is the least we can do from the comfort of our couches.

  4. my experience @ the Summer Olympics, the year I actually went there instead of watching from the couch:
    nicest spectators: weight lifting. Everyone was so sweet and encouraging.
    snottiest spectators: swimming. The medals ceremony was the coolest though – it takes place indoors, right near the pool, so the flags of the medal-winners’ nations are strung on cables, horizontally, rather than being run up flagpoles.
    largest number of spectators: gymnastics (we sat so far back, it was like watching a flea circus)
    Best unsung between-games pass-time: trading pins at Olympic park

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