On Not Watching the Olympics
There was a time when I enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics. I found them more interesting than the summer games, and I think the reason for that was that they were more exotic. Having lived all my life in the deep south, I had never engaged in any of those sports and never would (except once--see below). Snow has always been a very rare thing for me, and mostly enjoyable, which I understand is not necessarily the case for those who deal with it all winter. Sliding down a snowy hill on a pair of skis looked like a lot more fun than plain old running and jumping. And it was certainly more interesting to watch.
My one experience of skiing, on a work-related trip to Utah with an avid and capable skier who talked me into giving it a try, showed me that, like pretty much everything that isn't bad for you, skiing was not nearly as easy as it looked. My co-worker got me into a pair of skis and to the top of a short slope which I later learned was not for beginners but rather for those who had already learned the basics. With a casual "All you need to do is..." he zipped off down the hill and I didn't see him again until it was time for us to go. By then I had begun to get the knack of staying upright, but I couldn't figure out how to turn or slow down, so when I was heading for a tree or felt like I was getting too fast, I just fell over.
Getting upright again took some time, so since I did this every fifty feet or so I only traversed the slope three or four times while we were there. But by the time we left I was at a point where I could say "I can see how this might be fun."
That was something close to forty years ago, and it did not destroy the mild fascination that winter sports held for me. But the fascination has been dying for a while, and has now been completely extinguished. The bizarrely grandiose hype and spectacle, the breathless reporting, the manipulative shaping of some chosen competitors' backgrounds into grand heroic-sentimental narratives, the corruption that apparently goes on behind the scenes--all of that had been turning me off for a while.
The fact that China is hosting this one while engaging in terrible crimes and belligerently denouncing--or worse, if it can get hold of them--anyone who points it out only turned indifference into outright hostility. Saturday night I was in a restaurant that was showing the opening ceremony and I found myself thinking of The Triumph of the Will and other self-glorifying events staged by oppressive regimes.
This is very unfair to the athletes, I know. But blame the Chinese government and the American TV industry.