TERRE HAUTE —
The Olympic Games are old and ancient. The warring city states of Greece would stop the wars so they could have the Olympic Games. We, in modern times, after the resurrection of the Games, have done the opposite. We stop the games so we can fight a war. (There was a 12-year gap from 1936 to 1948 so we could fight World War II.) We even managed to squeeze the Cold War into the Olympic Games. It was supposed to be an amateur affair, but as a Soviet Union showed us, government-supported athletes were soon to dominate.
So what came about was to send the very best athletes, whether they were amateur or professional. Actually, this move was more like the ancient games where city-states sponsored their best athletes, paid them while they trained; gamblers bet on them and often rewarded the winners with part of their winnings. Not exactly amateurs.
There’s a strong commercial tinge to these modern games. For instance, in just a few hours the lovely little American girl who won the all-around in women’s gymnastics found herself on a box of corn flakes. Other Olympians make money by endorsing products and the like. American Gold Medal winners receive $25,000, Silver $15,000, and Bronze $10,000.
I’m not advocating that this be changed … what this commentary is about is simply asking the question: Why?
I’m a little burned up that baseball is not an Olympic sport. All of Latin American, the islands in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Canada, Korea, Chinese Taiwan, and Japan, all play baseball. (I suspect that more people watch a St. Louis Cardinals home game than participate in air rifle shooting.)
Of course, there is kayak competition. I don’t suppose that’s a large sport anywhere in Africa or Mongolia. Anywhere the British flag has flown, the native people they have left behind, i.e., Pakistan, India, and such, all play cricket. I am not a cricket fan, but it would make more sense to have that in the Olympics than air rifle shooting.
Then there’s beach volleyball, a two-person team sport. I think this is in the Olympics to see if the young women can wear those skimpy bikinis and not be totally embarrassed. (I know it’s the 21st century, but come on!)
Who decides these things? I guess the Olympic committee has a committee that does this very thing. Well, I can tell you they didn’t ask me.
Being an old curmudgeon, I am glad to see some of the old Greek games are still there. But give geo-politics some time and they may not be there during the next Olympiad. Look out, because it could be dominoes and cockroach races the next time around.
In spite of all these things, I am a fan of the Olympics. And most of these athletes have, every year, worked very hard in their training to be called an Olympic athlete.
It may be I am a little too jaded and just an old grouch.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.