At some point in history the Olympics were thought of as a pure: pure athleticism, pure sportsmanship (pardon the lack of gender neutrality), pure diplomatic harmony, pure naked Greek men wrestling with each other in Athens
. Now it's not that the purity angle has diappeared, it's just that the qualifiers have been modified: pure marketing, pure cash grab, pure greed, pure exploitation, pure flag-waving, pure gentrification in whichever locale wins the multi-billion dollar bid.
NBC has 1400 hours of television and 2200 hours of online coverage scheduled - that's 150 days of coverage at 24 hours a day. If you pump yourself up with enough eight balls to last you through to January 11 of next year, you can watch every minute of it. Perhaps the clearest example of this over-reaching grab for ad and sponsorship dollars comes from the fact the most popular track and field event (the Men's 100m) doesn't even take ten seconds to complete, yet you can be sure the tape delay will space out heats and fill in plenty of fancy CG screen overlays showing every statistic under the sun to make your watching of men and women doing something children do in playgrounds every day seem like the Daytona 500.
Other than the opening ceremonies providing some "Honey! Get me an atlas" moments when Burkina Faso
gets announced, the actual ceremony relates little to athletics and more to the Westminister Dog Show
. I don't think we can expect a wardrobe malfunction. Everyone gets led around by gold, silver and bronze leashes preening for judges and audiences alike. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is holding a Breaking News conference when Canada's team announces its flag bearer. People are dying all around the world due to hunger, genocide and natural disasters and my country's public broadcaster is breaking to let me know who made 1st drum major on the varsity squad!?!
Now don't get me wrong, I respect the training and dedication that people put into being the best they can be in any endeavour (not just athletics), so I'm not bashing the athletes, but isn't it ironic that some of the domineering succeed-at-all-costs parents we denounce on a daily basis are behind at least a few of these "success" stories.
While I have no doubt that my television viewing will, at some point, glide past snippets of Olympic coverage, I have a few suggestions for making the events more interesting if a network wants me to watch its commercials:
Archery - all archers (men and women) stand in a big circle facing each other, last standing wins the gold (no silver or bronze necessary)
Baseball - any pitcher walking a batter gets thrown out of the game as does any hitter who strikes out. Game ends after nine innings or one defensive team cannot field a pitcher/catcher battery
Basketball/Judo - all team players (including bench) on the floor at the same time, full contact - no fouls counted.
Boxing - all fights until knockout
Diving - from helicopters over shark-infested waters in the South China Sea, by dare and double-dare scoring system
Equestrian - use brick walls and water jumps at least 25 feet deep
Fencing - dressed as pirates, with non-blunted sabres, until significant blood is spilled
Gymnastics - one large combined event that includes the pommel horse, rings, parallel bars, and all rhythmic gymnastic items with the addition of chainsaws, axes, bowling pins and torches... oh yeah, on ice
Modern Pentathlon - change it back to archaic pentathlon... didn't it involve lions in a colisseum or something?
All Martial Arts and Wrestling - to the death
All Races (including Track, Cycling, Sailing, Horses, Swimming, Rowing) - one event, strictly endurance, last standing wins
Shooting, Javelin, Hammer Throw, Shot Put, Discus (see Archery)
Trampoline, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, don't actually broadcast these events, but instead tell all the athletes they can just go home and tell everyone they won the gold.
These would be Olympic events worth watching.