As a boy, I loved the Olympics more than any other sporting event in the world. I waited impatiently every four years for the Olympics to return. I loved it more than the Stanley Cup Finals, more than the Super Bowl, more than the World Series, and, yes, more than The Masters.
The walls in my childhood bedroom were full of photographs, usually cut out from Life Magazine, of great Olympic track & field champions such as Bob Beamon, Tommie Smith, Dave Wottle, Edwin Moses, Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, etc.
In high school and beyond, I ran track with and against some of Canada’s greatest track & field sprinters, such as Desai Williams (Bronze medalist, 1984 Los Angeles Olympics), Angella Taylor (Silver medalist, 1984 Olympics), Mark McCoy (Gold medalist, 1992 Barcelona Olympics), and, most infamously, Ben Johnson (Gold medalist [stripped for doping], 1988 Seoul Olympics). Ben Johnson and I were the respective anchors for our high school 4 x 100 relay teams and stood beside each other in lanes four and five at the 1978 Ontario Track & Field Championships.
In March of 1979, I trained for a week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and then placed third in the long jump at the 1980 Canadian Track & Field Championships. Disappointingly, Canada, along with the United States and other Western nations, boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Sadly, I never got to the Olympics, which is one of the great disappointments of my life.
(Here I am at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, March 1979.)
All of this is to say that I once loved the Olympic Games. To be honest, though, I really haven’t seriously watched the Olympics for almost 30 years. At least not like I use to. A big part of the problem is how they have been covered for the last three decades by the mainstream American media, namely, by NBC Sports, and, more particularly, by the insufferable Bob Costas. (Thank god, Costas did not cover the Olympics this year.) Costas, who was NBC’s Olympic Games anchor from 1988 to 2016, did more than anyone I can think of to turn the Olympics into a media clown show.
Back in the day, before NBC ruined the Olympics, the media would cover virtually all of the Olympic events in Track & Field, including all of the preliminary rounds leading to the finals. For instance, they would show almost all of the competitors in all of the events. Part of the Olympic spirit was to watch the sprinter from San Marino, the long jumper from Micronesia, or the high jumper from Liechtenstein compete against the great athletes from the United States or the former Soviet Union. We don’t see those athletes anymore. Now the media just shows, at most, the final rounds of the sprints or the half-dozen athletes in the jumping, vaulting, and throwing events.
Starting with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, NBC Sports turned the world’s greatest athletic competition into a low-rent soap opera. Rather than actually covering the events, NBC producers began airing manufactured sob stories of the hardships endured by various athletes. Instead of the Olympics being by and for the athletes, they’ve become by and for the media and its woke agenda.
Another destructive result of turning the Olympics over to NBC Sports is that Olympic athletes are now manufactured and sometimes destroyed by the media. Take the case of Simone Biles.
I have no insider knowledge as to why Ms. Biles pulled out of the gymnastics team competition and from most of the individual events for supposed “mental health” reasons (despite the fact that she seemed perfectly fine during her press conferences and as a spectator during the remainder of the competition), but I have a very strong suspicion as to what was going on. Simone Biles is, or at least certainly was, an outstanding, even a great, gymnast, but she was almost certainly not The Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.), which is what the American media and her corporate sponsors built her up to be in the months leading up to the Olympics. People much more knowledgeable about gymnastics than I am tell me that she was not in the top 5 of all time. Huge pressure was put on Ms. Biles to prove that she was the G.O.A.T. I think she simply cracked—and this is the charitable interpretation—under the pressure of her mediocre performance in the early rounds. The less charitable interpretation is that she made a calculated decision based on protecting her image as the prefabricated G.O.A.T. My guess is that her PR team and corporate sponsors thought it was best for her to pull out rather than crash and burn in the competition.
Such a thing would have been unimaginable to earlier generations of Olympians. Consider the case of Shun Fujimoto, the Japanese gymnast who courageously competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics with a badly injured knee. After fracturing his kneecap during the floor routine of the team competition, Fujimoto continued to compete on the pommel horse and then on the still rings. He did it, he said, because he didn’t want to let down his teammates. His still rings routine required that Fujimoto dismount from eight feet above the ground and land on the injured knee. When Fujimoto hit the ground, he dislocated his already broken kneecap and tore ligaments in his knee. Still, he landed the dismount with a slight grimace that easily transformed into a grinning smile. Because of Fujimoto’s extraordinary courage and performance, the Japanese team won the gold medal.
You can see Fujimoto’s contra-Biles performance here:
And now we’re at the end of the worst Olympic Games of all time. Ironically, the 2021 Olympics have become the most politicized Games since Hitler’s 1936 production in Berlin. (Yes, even worse in certain ways than the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved, black power salute on the medal stand.)
Worst of all, much of the bad at this year’s Games has come from American athletes, who have turned the Olympic Village into an American college campus, where (self-promoting) wokeness has replaced pride in competing for one’s country. After watching and listening to American soccer player Megan Rapinoe and shot putter Raven Saunders beclown themselves as they lectured the world about various forms of American oppression and tyranny, it was time to turn the TV channel and watch the people of Cuba get beaten by their government for their peaceful protests in the name of freedom.
There were, of course, a couple of bright spots for the American Olympic Team. America fell in love with Tamyra Mensah-Stock, who won a gold medal in women’s wrestling. She is the first-ever African-American female wrestler to win Olympic gold. Mrs. Mensah-Stock is also a first generation American. Her father, who was her biggest supporter, came to the United States country from Ghana when he was thirty years old. He was tragically killed in a car accident returning from one of Tamyra’s high school wrestling matches, which caused her to almost quit wrestling in her despair.
After her gold medal performance, Mrs. Mensah-Stock gave an extraordinary interview, which reminds us of everything that was once beautiful about the Olympics.
PLEASE WATCH THIS POST-EVENT INTERVIEW WITH TAMYRA MENSAH-STOCK. It will make your day, promise.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock is my vote for “American of the Year.” (Warning: Mrs. Mensah-Stock must be protected going forward from those in the academic-media complex who will no doubt attempt to destroy her for her pro-American attitude.)
And what do the Olympics mean to non-woke Americans?
Watch the total pandemonium in Seward, Alaska, when seventeen-year-old, native-daughter Lydia Seward, swam in the 100-meter breaststroke and won gold against all odds. This is what the Olympics means and should be about:
This is the Olympic spirit that we should want to revive.
To that end, I propose several reforms.
First, the Olympics should be for amateurs only. Athletes should compete as amateurs at the Olympics and if they want to go pro after, that’s great. There are now world championships in virtually all sports, and let those events be for the professional athletes. Boxing can be the model.
Second, transgender athletes should compete according to their birth sex and not according to their chosen gender identity. If Laurel Hubbard is permitted to compete in women’s weightlifting, why couldn’t the mixed relay teams in swimming and track & field consist entirely of four biological men? Given the Olympics current trajectory, that’s where we’re headed.
Third, politics should be kept out of the Olympics entirely. Podium or pre-event political demonstrations should result either in disqualification or an immediate loss of one’s medal.
And finally, NBC Sports and Bob Costas should be forever banned from the Olympics.
Then, and only then, can we Make the Olympics Great Again!
Oh and one more thing... Wow! I had no idea about your athletic chops. I played college basketball and tennis, so I know that anyone that has been invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs has to be among the best of the best in whatever athletic discipline they are pursuing. I can now understand your interest in and commentary on sports, which I have found to typically be in short supply among aficionados of Ayn Rand's philosophy. It is very much appreciated by this sports-loving Objectivist...thank you!
I watched the golf, which was fun with excellent winners and medalists. But I didn't watch anything else, and I haven't for years for your 'Bob Costas reason', though I can't say I ever focused only on Costas. The 'human interest' stories that took over Olympics coverage decades ago simply didn't interest me, and I'm sure they've only gotten worse. Since I didn't watch any of it, I didn't know about the politicization of everything but that is not surprising. Everything, as you and others I follow have pointed out repeatedly, has become a political contest. I'm glad I missed it and from what I've read I'm not alone. This appears to be the least-watched Olympics in quite awhile. Hopefully the billions that organizations such as NBC and the NBA continue to lose because of the political nonsense they spew will either be the end of them or the catalyst to something better.