Commentary: The Olympic Games are many things to many people. For some, the Winter Olympics are an enjoyable special event to experience over a course of days during the boredom of the cold season. For others, they represent a childhood dream begging to be fulfilled one day.
Some will return home with those prized Olympic medals and the acclaim and commercial opportunities they bring with them.
For a very select few, these games are a way to make a buck and a good one, too. Broadcasters love the big audiences these events draw that allows them to charge a premium for their commercial time. And those corporations and interests that buy all that commercial time love the Games because it’s hard to get a large group of people to watch any single thing these days due to fragmentation of viewing habits and the ever-shortening attention spans of the viewers who prefer looking at something in their hands all day long.
Politicians and governments also love the Olympics as they are the perfect venue to promote their national and personal agendas on the wide world stage. This has been done repeatedly over the years, and will no doubt continue as the go-to spectacle for promotion of self-interests to a worldwide audience.
So, the Olympic Games offer many things to many people. But are they an unqualified success? Not hardly.
Often the host city is left with big expenses and leftover bills that may remain unpaid for years. Many times, residents of the host cities do without needed infrastructure and services because so much of their civic money was directed toward this one big, splashy event designed to disappear quickly. The homeless and less economically fortunate are displaced to make way for the sought-after big spenders who don’t want to encounter or be reminded that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. The host city may only get a single use out of an expensive sports venue that has no reasonable ongoing use once the games are over. Some of these venues sit lonely and rotting many years after everyone has forgotten about them once the bright and glamorous Olympic lights were turned off.
Sometimes a scandal may come to light over how a host city was selected. This usually involves large sums of money changing hands to certain parties in the shadows away from the glare.
An athlete is often found cheating or using performance-enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage. The lure of fame, acclaim, and big money is too appealing for some to leave to chance or the vulgar simplicity of actually having to perform on an equal and fair footing with others. Some participants try to tilt the table or pull a few aces from their sleeve to make sure things turn out in their favor. That doesn’t exactly rhyme with the pure intentions of more honest competition from the earliest games of centuries ago. The Olympic Spirit traditionally involves developing the character of a participant and having respect for others. Those who cheat have certainly developed a unique take on this core Olympic principle.
In today’s games, the athletes are either actual professionals, or they are amateur-quasi-professionals labeled amateur but actually someone who works and trains all the time to perfect their given skill. Professional amateurs.
Modern life is tough these days. People need a break from the cares and woes of thousand-point drops in the stock market, abusive behavior and harassment claims, political warring, the President’s latest Tweet, and a host of other problems. So, enjoy the Olympics. Smile along with the winners. Feel bad for the losers. Be awed by the spectacular ceremonies. Watch the undercurrent of politics and behind-the-scenes maneuvering if wish. Enjoy it all, because soon all the sets will come down, everyone will fly home, and the regular world returns. Everyone will return back to the real world of competing, making money, watching lots of commercials, political intrigue, cheating, paying bills, and wishing and hoping that things in life were more fair and honest as the original games hoped to represent.
In other words, we’ll return to our regular world that looks a whole lot like the Winter Olympics.