I saw my neighbor downstairs tonight. As I walked up the steps to the front
of the apartment, I noticed the Olympics on his TV set. A few people were sitting
in his living room. He popped out the door, and we chatted for a couple of
I asked him if he'd been watching the Olympics much, and he said no. I acknowledged
that I hadn't been watching, either. His sense was that people in general weren't
very much into them this time around, though he seemed
amazed when I commented that I'd seen a story not long ago about how Olympic
sales were off by what seemed like 40-45%. With few American hopefuls contending,
US media outlets haven't bothered to hype them, and it may be that American
apathy is even more contagious than American greed.
I had a few other thoughts about the Olympics the other day. One could view
the Olympics as a form of international warfare: countries vie to have the
most medals overall, to have the most gold medals, to maintain domination of
a particular sport, etc. Against the backdrop of the current day bullets-and-bombs
warfare that seems pervasive throughout the world, Olympic competition
pales in comparison. This is also a geopolitical year, with high stakes and
a lot of life and death stuff in play. Who wins the gold medal for badminton
trivial in that light.
Then there's the not-so-small matter of the special-ness
of the Olympic games. We're exposed to what could be considered Olympic-grade
athletic competition all the time these days. As the walls between
have come down, the distinction has blurred even more, and to a certain degree,
I suspect the Olympics are becoming “more of the same” to many.
I remember growing up with The World's Fair. It was a major international
exposition, that seemed as if it would go on in perpetuity. I came to the New
York World's Fair as a young child, and was amazed. My family drove to
Flshing Meadows from Norwich New York - a very long drive, but worth the trip.
I believe The World's Fair was the first place that I'd ever heard of the IBM
Corporation. They had their own pavilion, and Sinclair
featured a giant dinosaur exhibit — something that still fascinates kids today
— you know I was hooked. Then, too, there was the Unisphere and those wild
restaurants up in the sky,
like something out of the Jetsons (they were mothballed flying saucers in Men
In Black). Twenty years later, I visited the Louisiana
World Exposition in New Orleans (the city where I was
born). It was a feeble echo of the spectacle of my youth. There have been expos
since, but New Orleans was the first to declare bankruptcy and close early.
Near the opening of the Olympics, an article appeared, suggesting that as
hard as the IOC and other sporting organizations work to prevent the use of
performance-enhancing steroids in sports, gene therapy might offer a technology
that can enhance performance without the possibility of detection. At that
point, Olympic-level dominance might well become another market-driven
economy, and pretty pointless. I wonder if the arc of the World's Fair expositions
is a model of the modern Olympic Games. It would be strange, if we were to
look back years from now and say that the games began to wane the year the
Olympics were held in the city where they started so long ago.