The Winter Olympics ended recently and somehow they seemed to have lost their luster. It wasn’t so much that they were in Sochi where most of the events were on tape delay. It was more due to the new events (many we have never heard of) that have diluted the games. The Winter Olympics have gone from an intimate edition of their summer counterpart to one where it appears medal counts and commercialism is all that matters.
The worst thing about the winter games is the addition of the extreme sports that appeal more to daredevils than sportsmen. It’s not to say those participants are not great athletes, it’s just that most human beings couldn’t even contemplate trying sports like that. The only long-time Olympic sport that might question one’s sanity is ski jumping but at least there’s a history there. Watching people do wild flips or half-pikes off their skis or snowboards is more art than sport.
The International Olympic Committee also decided that traditional speed skating wasn’t enough. It added short-track skating as well and it appears the only reason was to make Apollo Ohno famous. Short-track speed skating looks like a bad version of roller derby. Sometimes it’s more important to be lucky than good. One time the slowest skater in the final won the gold medal when the three speedsters in front of him tripped over each other on the final turn and he passed them from half a lap back as they were sprawled out on the track.
The constant additions of extreme sports and other bizarre events have turned the Winter Olympics into a carnival atmosphere. It apparently was done to appeal to a younger audience and placate NBC for its $775 million rights fees. That way medal counts become a big deal and the United States can take home quite a haul. Compare that to the $50,000 that CBS paid for the 1960 games at Squaw Valley in California, or the one gold medal the United States captured in both 1964 and 1968.