The Olympic Games: Do we Really Care Anymore?

July 21, 2012 | Robert Testoni

There was a time where the Olympic games were a must watch every evening for 2 week stretch during the summers, or winters. I couldn’t wait to watch our young Americans take there shot against the best in the world, even if some of these sports I did not understand, or know the rules. What is the modern pentathlon? Or biathlon? Do you know tug of war used to be an Olympic sport? Really? It was an exciting couple of weeks where you had a rooting interest even if did not know what was going on. It allowed you to forget about the reality of our word for a couple of weeks. I guess this all started to die with the events in 1972 at the Munich games.

We are a week out for the 2012 games in London and I just don’t see the buzz. What has changed? Why has it changed? Does it really matter? Let’s be honest, when the Olympic games are held in a time zone that is not conducive for the viewing times of Americans, it seems not to matter. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the network that would televise the games would save all of the popular events for primetime on tape and with no real-time reporting of the Internet, and other mobile devices, it played live. Remember, in 1980, the hockey game between the United States and Soviet Union was played at 5PM in the afternoon, and shown in prime time. Most people thought they were seeing it live. The only people that knew what happened were the 8000 in the arena. If this game had been played today, we would have known the outcome and probably seen the highlights. Getting closer to us, Michael Phelps will be swimming all of his events in the morning or afternoon. Being that he is one of the poster boys of the Olympic games this year, you know that NBC is going to hold that footage until their evening programming. I know most will still watch, but is it ‘must see’? It will be interesting to see if NBC shows any of their ’go to’ events, swimming, or gymnastics live on the alternate stations they have.

The David versus Goliath mentality of the games for the United States is no longer applicable. You always knew that most of the other countries paid their athletes, but our athletes were considered ‘true’ amateurs. Again, the ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey team represented the real love of the Olympics. Not only were we barely 15 years from the ‘cold war’, but also we had a bunch of college kids, and Mike Eruzione against the Soviet Union team with all the professional players. It was a perfect storm, David versus Goliath, with social implications. The games will never be that way again as I guess the United States has to utilize professionals so that they can stick their chest out, but is that the point. The first ‘Dream team’ of 1992 was fun, and was a curiosity, but unless you are a hardened NBA junkie, are you going to watch many of the games?

What made the games special was the fact that you really did not know these people until the two weeks in the summer or winter. Most of the sports represented were not made for Wide World of Sports, so you never got to see the athletes until the games. Did you know ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard before the 1976 Games in Montreal? Probably not, unless you were a huge boxing enthusiast; even then, maybe not. Athletes like Teofilo Stephenson, the Cuban boxer who won 3 Olympic gold medals and never turned professional, made the games special because the only time you would see him would be in that 2-week span. Could you imagine the media coverage if he were fighting today?

The uniqueness of the Olympics has been spoiled by the oversaturation of the athletes.

Whatever it is, are the games on your viewing docket from July 27-August 12, or is it the Orioles, reruns or nothing at all?

(By the way, the modern pentathlon includes pistol shooting, fencing, 200 meter freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3-mile cross-country run. I had to look this one up!)