What the Olympics are Really About


When CNN and ESPN emerged on the media market, the idea of 24-hour news and sports coverage was born.

Fast forward several decades and now we have those networks AND Internet “media” sites like TMZ AND an array of social media networks and users that grows by the millisecond.

All of those outlets means that we’ll see more photos, videos, pithy thoughts, snarky comments, analysis articles and historic moments than ever during these 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

While that means a closer seat to the Olympics than ever for the common man, it also means we get to deal with the ongoing conversation about what isn’t going right with these Games, the first ever to be held in South America.

Athletes, fans, media members, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), even natives themselves, have had plenty of negative feedback already on the chosen host city and its equipment for arguably the world’s biggest athletics competition, political platform and global relations stage.

There’s the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The water quality and safety are highly questionable.

The security is iffy. (But where is it not iffy in the world today?)

The facilities are shoddy.

Athletes aren’t showing up.

Legendary guests aren’t showing up.

The opening ceremonies are set for tape delay.

Why is golf an Olympic sport again?

What will happen to Rio’s investment in infrastructure improvement after the party guests leave?

Those have been among the statements and questions surrounding these games.

It seems our can’t-turn-it-off, everyone-is-an-analyst-in-everything world has more to criticize and complain about than ever as the world’s nations gather for that special, once-every-four-years event we call the Olympics.

Has our social media-assisted access to the event, no matter where it’s held, cheapened the allure of the Olympic Games?

We arguably live in a “what have you done for me lately” and “I want instant gratification” world. Have those characteristics of our earth as it stands in 2016 also cheapened this major international get-together?

How far are we from the good will these Games represent?

How much pride exists in our modern Olympics?

And will these questions go away in the years to come?

I believe I have reason to think the Olympics may at some point become only an afterthought.

We have instant connectivity to most any information we want via the Internet. I can watch sports live via smartphone and tablet apps instead of tuning into ESPN for programming or Sportscaster. And I can get news coverage in any variety of apps instead of turning to CNN on an analog or digital cable channel.

Just a few years ago, it seemed like HDTV was all the rage. People were buying fancy TVs with incredible picture clarity to see sports, movies and other entertainment in better quality than ever before. Now, how much do we actually take into our brains via a television of any kind?

How many of this year’s Olympic events will Americans (or residents of any other country) watch live or in their entirety on any kind of delay or archived programming? It’s more likely we will follow an event via a social network like Twitter.

And how much will we spend time talking about what goes wrong in Rio than what the world’s greatest athletes accomplish in their sports? I know I have already been guilty of that. (For evidence, listen to half of my points in the podcast above.) Our advanced technology feeds our expectations, and those expectations for entertainment have gotten out of hand.

Starting with the Opening Ceremony, I’m going to make an effort to enjoy the NBC network system’s coverage of the Olympics in Brazil. I’m going to try to be a little less sarcastic about what’s failing and a little more in awe of the spectacle that this gathering and these athletes have been offering us for decades, way back to when the TV and even the radio were not instantly feeding us everything we asked for.

The Olympics are about unity and greatness. And, no matter what fails in Rio, those elements will still be there, as they always have been.


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