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ATVS's Relationship With the Olympics

ATVS every so often likes to refer to itself in the 3rd person.  Specifically, the guy who writes for ATVS sometimes confuses himself with the blog he writes.

Anyway, I am really enjoying these Olympics.  It has been a lot of fun to watch the beach volleyball, the regular volleyball, the swimming (especially the 4x100 freestyle relay, yikes!).

My relationship with the Olympics has been somewhat ambivalent over the years, however.  I went several Olympics without giving a damn what happened in them.  This is really the first Summer Olympics I've felt any connection to in a very long time.  I always liked the Winter Olympics, except for the ice skating.  The Winter Olympics has curling, and curling rocks.  The Summer Games?  They had the U.S. basketball team, and that was, until this year, enough to put off any fan of the Olympics.

I think I can date my ambivalence towards the Olympics to the 1992 Summer Olympics, and to the "Dream Team".  That team made a mockery of competition.  They were not really a part of the Olympic team in any real way, and was there only to prove to the world that just because their pros could beat our college players, we were still better.  

In particular, the moment in which Charles Barkley flagrantly and without provocation elbowed an Angolan player in the head while running down the court in a game the Americans ended up winning by 68 points took all the joy out of the Olympics for me.  It was like we were giving the collective finger to lesser countries.  Winning was not enough.  We had to make them regret their temerity in stepping on the court with us.  My soul wept just a little.  

Then they pulled all the crap about not wanting to wear the official Olympic gear because it did not have the right corporate logo.  Many athletes threatened to boycott the medal ceremony over it.  It was not a protest against corporate sponsorship of the Olympics, but a statement against sponsorship from the wrong corporation.  The athletes had their own corporate masters, and Olympic pride and tradition came in a distant 2nd place to those considerations.  My soul wept a little bit more.  The Olympics stopped getting my television-watching-business.

I watched a little bit, especially when former Tiger football player Bennie Brazell was running the hurdles, but in general I paid little attention to the next 3 Summer Olympic Games.

Now, 16 years later, something has changed.  I'm not exactly sure what, but something has.  it didn't hurt that the NBA got a little shot of humility in 2002.  This year, the Olympic basketball team is out doing their best, and by all accounts is actually trying to be a part of the main national Olympic team.  The other sports are entertaining as all get-out.  And last but not least, our athletes seem to be generally likable.  

For what it's worth, I have given a lot of consideration also to the question of whether we should have boycotted the Olympics, given the fact that the host nation has an abysmal human rights record and is an autocratic nation bent on dominating its neighbors.  I concluded that, though I understand the sentiment, a boycott would only hurt the athletes, for many of whom this is the culmination of a life-long dream.  Taking that away from them for the only loosely connected goal of furthering human rights would not be fair to them.  I don't like that the IOC picked Beijing, as I think it really does fly in the face of all that is decent (after all they would never pick Darfur, and the biggest difference between the two is that Darfur doesn't have any money), but I cannot envision or justify punishing the athletes.

I don't think our government ever seriously considered boycotting the Olympics, but I know it was something that was talked about in the public sphere.  I am glad we made the right choice, and for what it's worth China seems to be doing an excellent job of hosting the Games.