The Olympics: A festival of stupid and irrelevant sports
It’s time again to rejoice. That overbloated spectacle of sport, the Olympics, is upon us. Sixteen days of wall-to-wall, back-to-sport, starting with the usual ridiculous opening ceremony that meanders through to the largely irrelevant closing shindig.
In between there will be great moments. Moments of pure courage and daring. Moments that will captivate the entire television-watching world.
But there will also much that is pointless and annoying. Much that would be better off not being part of the Olympics at all.
There are 26 sports being played across the Olympics. It is far too many. At the next Olympics in Rio in 2016 there will be 28. It is a ludicrous number that bears testimony to the International Olympic Committee’s commitment to grasping for as much cash as it can possibly stuff into its pockets.
The first of the modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 comprised nine sports, (gymnastics, athletics, cycling, fencing, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting and greco-roman wrestling), there were 17 by the time of the Melbourne Games in 1956, 21 in Los Angeles in 1984 and 28 in Sydney in 2000.
It is clear there are sports that should patently not be part of any Olympic Games. And not just daft sports such as walking.
There is rule of thumb that should be applied before any sport is included in the Olympics. That is – is winning an Olympic gold medal the pinnacle of achievement for that sport?
If not, you’re out.
The first sport to be kicked out is football. Football has its World Cup, it has its European Championship, Copa America and African Cup of Nations.
The Olympic event is so little thought of in the football world it is limited to players under the age of 23, with a couple of older players thrown in.
Tennis is next. Does anybody expect to see Andy Murray’s eyes leak if he fails to win an Olympic gold medal?
And the problem will only get worse. For Rio, the IOC has decided in its wisdom that golf and rugby 7s should be added to the mix.
It’s hard to know where to start with ideas of such Olympian stupidity.
Where would a gold medal sit in the pantheon of golfing achievement?
Let’s ask Tiger Woods.
“It would be great to have an Olympic gold medal, but if you asked any player, ‘Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug (given to British Open champion)?’ more players would say the majors.”
You could probably add the US Open, the US PGA, the Ryder Cup and about 50 other events to that list as well.
Rugby 7s is barely even a real sport. It’s a cut down version of the traditional 15-a-side competition designed for a bit of fun. It’s like 20/20 cricket.
Entertainment masquerading as sport. It has no place in the Olympics.
The reason both sports are there though comes back to money. Golf and rugby are two cash-rich sports guaranteed to bring in sponsors and viewers.
Given the IOC’s fixation on cash these days it’s almost amusing to think that it was only a couple of decades ago it was an avowedly amateur organisation. But there’s no zeal like the zeal of the converted.
According to the IOC’s website the organisation made $US1.25 billion from broadcast sales between 1993 and 1996. Between 2009 and 2012 this had risen to $3.9 billion. Again between 1993 and 1996 it made $279 from its top sponsors. Between 2009 and 2012 it made $957 million.
Between now and 2016 it will have to make even more.
The IOC may like to see itself as some sort of guardian for sport but dollars rather than athletic achievement is its guiding principle.
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