Tag Archives: Olympics

Where is the Olympic brand going?

Wrestling was just eliminated from the 2020 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee.  What?  And golf and tennis are included?  Apparently wrestling was odd man out – 26 ‘core’ sports vying for 25 spots, and the criteria included things like television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity.

wrestling

—>  Why should we care?  Why should the Olympics care?  The Olympic credo is ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius‘ –  Higher, Faster, Stronger – – and the Olympic brand had come to mean a way to settle the ancient traditional arguments about who’s the fastest man, who’s the strongest man, etc.  Over the years, the Games tried to hew closely to this idea, but inevitably had to adapt to survive, most importantly becoming gender-equal, but also bowing to media-driven economics by adding sports that would be unrecognizable to Baron de Coubertin (e.g. beach volleyball, BMX cycling) but that appeal to a target demo.  One of my earlier posts lamented the reinstatement of golf to the 2016 Games (it was an Olympic sport in 1904), because along with tennis, there are already ample opportunities annually to decide the top athletes in these sports, and that they would necessarily crowd out something else more worthy of the Olympic spotlight.

—> Wrestling is now just one of an at-large list of candidates including roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu that will apply for participation in 2020.

—> Perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point.  With this move, the meaning of the Olympic brand becomes less clear.  While it originated as the indisputable contest to crown the world’s best in the basic athletic skills for the following 4 years, as it gradually sheds its legacy and chases ratings, it now seems on its way to becoming another (albeit very large) global media/entertainment extravaganza.

These popular sports don’t belong in the Olympics

OK, we’ve seen Andy Murray and Serena Williams win singles – great, exciting, pip pip, etc. But tennis shouldn’t be in the Olympics (and the same goes for golf, which is regrettably planned to be introduced as an Olympic sport in Rio in 2016).
WHY do I make this cranky and probably unpopular statement?

Simple: the Olympics is where the world sees who is the best athlete in each individual sport, where there aren’t generally well-publicized events otherwise. (quick: do you remember the last time world champions were decided in Women’s 8s?). These are athletes who are almost all amateurs, making remarkable sacrifices to be able to prove their mettle to the world (and themselves) on a grand stage.

Well, tennis happens to have a schedule of major tournaments that are conducted among the world’s best players 4 TIMES EVERY YEAR!  French Open, US Open, Australian Open..and we just finished Wimbledon, for crying out loud! So why do we need yet another tournament that will only steal television coverage from those athletes who are more deserving of this quadrennial spotlight?  Additionally, these pro tennis players already have more fame and fortune than most humans – – perhaps being deprived of the honor of representing the US is the price they have to pay.  On the other hand, maybe the US competitors could start by doing better in the Davis Cup!  ‘Golden Slam’?  Spare me.

Ditto for Golf.  We just don’t need it in the Olympics. Let’s start by doing a little better in the Ryder Cup, eh chaps?

And in the ‘is this a joke’ category, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has apparently started lobbying for ‘US-style football’ to be included in future Olympics.  He claims there are 64 countries already playing the sport, which is some sort of requirement.  Well, I’ll agree that Texas and a few other states could be considered countries, but mostly – –  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?