by Tom Henihan
I do not share any enthusiasm for the Olympics. One person running faster or jumping higher than another is not in any way compelling to my mind.
In Rio, attendance is down 27 percent compared to the London Olympics and apart from concerns around the zika virus, I believe the decline is also due to the Olympics always being in the news.
We hear constantly about the bidding process, the Olympic Village construction, doping, the Russians are coming, the Russians are not coming, and since the winter and summer games are held on different years the noise around the Olympics never ceases.
By the time the games actually commence the entire undertaking seems jaded. It is difficult to stir up a sense of gala occasion when that occasion is the subject of endless attention.
However, that does not stop the media offering television coverage of the games that eclipses all other concerns, as if the world should come to a reverential standstill before displays of athletic prowess.
Finding real news in and out between Olympic coverage is next to impossible.
The faultfinding that goes on ad nauseam at all levels does not add to the games allure. The endless litany of complaints: the residences are not up to the mark, the showers lack water pressure, the food is wanting, transportation is lax and so on, makes Olympic athletes sound pampered and spoiled rather than disciplined, resilient, high endurance champions.
There is something admirable in natural athleticism; someone coming from obscurity and limited resources to become an Olympic contender is both a moral and an athletic triumph.
By comparison, a pampered athlete, massaged and coddled, training for years in ideal circumstances to the exclusion of all other concerns, should command little admiration.
Yet, winning a Nobel Prize for physics, literature or economics, or for advancing the interests of peace, seem pale achievements compared to the fanfare that surrounds such cossetted athletes winning at the Olympics.
Another fissure beginning to show in the appeal of the Olympics is the cost of hosting the games.
The cities of Boston and Hamburg, Germany withdrew from the 2024 Olympic bid due to pressure from groups opposed to spending exorbitant amounts of money on hosting the Games when more urgent and deserving matters need attention.
Those opposed to Boston’s Olympic bid organized a panel discussion, which cited the history of displacement of low income and homeless people associated with hosting the Olympics.
With Brazil experiencing its deepest recession in 30 years, no one could honestly justify the $11 billion US price tag for hosting the games.
This is not to suggest that sports are not enjoyable or to diminish the value of competition.
But like anything else that loses all sense of proportion, the Olympics can appear frivolous by contrast with more pressing needs such as housing and infrastructure.
When all sense of proportion is lost, rather than exemplifying the virtues of discipline, teamwork and fair play, the Olympics become an affront and instead of virtue and strength of character they represent decadence, hedonism and excess.