Post Olympic Thoughts
The city of Rio sure looked colorful and beautiful on TV. But you have got to talk about the elephant in the room. There sure were a lot of empty seats… pretty much at every event and at ALL of the venues. I think I might have only seen one or two full stadiums/grandstands (Brazil’s men’s volleyball gold medal game and the men’s soccer gold medal game) and or crowds amongst the 16 days of competitions. Brutal.
Some of these stadiums were less than half full during some prime events (Gymnastics? Track?). There were empty seats at the Closing Ceremonies. Event after event could be seen with the very noticeable background of empty seats that were obviously not sold or used. Rio may have looked good in the panoramic views of the lush beaches, the Christ the Redeemer statue and the magnificent ocean landscape with the “island mountains” looking like they are coming out of the water, but I’ve got to think that they took a MAJOR financial bath on these Olympics.
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were admittedly done on, as Summer Olympics go, a shoestring budget (due to the poor financial state of Brazil during these times) as compared to say, Beijing and London, but I’ll be damned if the Opening and Closing Ceremonies weren’t just as visually and emotionally impressive as the ones that cost probably three times as much. People can say “wow” for more reasons than just how expensive that something they are seeing must have cost.
In the end, I think people care about seeing something memorable, relevant and entertaining. Maybe the powers that rule the International Olympic Committee will see THAT as the primary reason for awarding their next Olympics to a city. To a city that will get the job done and put on a memorable and entertaining Olympics – not the people who can spend the most money and shower the IOC with the most expensive gifts.
Speaking of which – Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics. Good luck getting TV ratings in the U.S., when half of the live audience will be asleep during the competition and all of the events will probably have been completed by the time network TV gets around to covering it. As most of the West Coast of the United States showed, a large part of the audience does not want to see events where they already know the outcome. In this the Internet Age, the TV part is running the risk of becoming completely irrelevant.
Ryan Lochte probably didn’t think he was going to arrive in Rio as a big name swimming star and leave it as an international pariah, but that’s just what happened. You wonder WHY is it that someone aged 32 would jeopardize their post-Olympic career (let’s face it, your name and positive public image as a gold medal winner for your country becomes your brand that will ultimately determine your future) for some form of vandalism that could usually be expected by a bunch of teenagers?
He’s already been dropped by four of his sponsors (Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal, Airweave Mattresses and Speedo). Companies hire athletes and celebrities because they want to capitalize on their good names and images. They do NOT want their sports stars to do anything in a negative light that might reflect on their companies. Lochte violated Rule #1 of celebrity endorsement… DON’T do anything that might make the company look bad or you will get fired immediately.
However, I can see a Ryan Lochte “comeback” story. Lochte might have come out of Rio as the most hated athlete of these games, but he also came out of the Olympics as the most talked about (right up there next to Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps). What do publicists say? “I don’t care if it’s good publicity or bad publicity, just make sure you spell my client’s name right.” In Hollywood, they love the bad boy image just as much as they like the good guy.
I can see a scenario likely to be created by some sleazy people in the TV business, who might see this now controversial sporting pariah as their ticket… to use this “star” as the means for them to get a show, get some quick ratings and to make some fast bucks. I can see Lochte getting his own reality TV show, something along the lines of “Bad Boy Swimmers of Beverly Hills.” Yes, Lochte has sunk so low in two weeks, he might end up down there in the gutter, right next to the Kardashians.
I certainly didn’t notice any news of anybody getting the Zika virus during the Rio Olympics. NOTHING to justify the paranoid behavior everyone seemed to have prior to the Olympics. Seems the mosquitoes that transmit Zika kind of become dormant during winter. Rio is in SOUTH America, which is in the middle of winter. Thus no Zika. I wonder why no one reported that the southern winter would negate the problem. Seems like they just wanted to report the negative, sensational (and bad) news. Funny part of this is that during the two weeks the Olympics were being conducted in South America, there were more reported Zika cases in Florida than there were in Rio.
There was a moment during these Games that totally captured the legendary “Olympic Spirit.” In a semi-final heat of the women’s 5000 meters, an American runner and a New Zealand runner got tangled up and fell near the back of the pack. The American got up and urged the New Zealand woman to get up and get back in the race. But, upon trying to run, the American collapsed and fell. Then, the New Zealander stayed behind to help the American get up. Both runners were obviously injured and completely out of the race, but they both stayed together and limped their way through the rest of the race, as the crowd at the stadium roared at the sight of something so “courageous.”
Upon finishing the race, the American runner collapsed again. She was obviously very seriously injured. (It later turned out she had torn her ACL and had “run” the last three or so laps with a torn up knee.) At the finish line, the New Zealand runner cried out to race officials to help her fellow competitor. They went to get the American a wheelchair and the New Zealand runner stayed with her until she got help. Two competitors, who had never met each other before these Olympics, had become connected in a way that transcended good sportsmanship.
Later, the New Zealand runner (who had received a spot in the 5000m final by Olympic officials) was seen running her final hundred or so yards down the straightaway, somewhere near last place, and the TV captured the American runner, sitting in the stands in a full leg cast, cheering for her “new friend” to go, go, go towards the finish line and fulfill that Olympic mission of doing her best (even though it was a last place finish). Two competitors became lifelong friends because they were unselfish and saw the greater need to “do the right thing” and be good sports and help their competitor in dire need. Compassionate humans. Transcendent behavior. The Olympic Spirit.
Rio sure had its share of “Superstars” at this Olympics. By “Superstars,” I’m talking about well known, world champions or defending gold medal Olympic champions who everyone would be expecting to kick butt during their competition in Rio and bring in a ton of gold medals. Those would include U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ladecky, UK distance runner Mo Farah, U.S. decathlon champion Ashton Eaton and the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams, who had most of the best players in the NBA and WNBA, and these stars all delivered the gold medals they were expected to win.
But there were two people who were not just superstars, they were super humans. Those would be Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and U.S. women’s gymnast Simone Biles. Those two were so far superior to the rest of the world’s competitors at their sports, you might have thought that they came from another planet. Or that a team of talent scouts could scour the entire planet and they would NOT be able to come up with a person who could run as fast as Usain Bolt or a gymnast who could do the amazing, gravity defying vaults of Biles. They were simply awe-inspiring performances by two incredibly talented athletes that people will remember for as long as they view sports.
The thing I take away from seeing another Olympic Games is that, even though I love the fact that pro football is ramping up in its pre-season, and even though the major league is FULL of great pennant races, watching the Olympics was a far more compelling and rewarding experience than any of the usual American sports. It is probably the most compelling and rewarding sports competition that people will watch all year.
The Summer Olympics only happens once every four years. Baseball will have its pennant race this year, next year and the year after. Football will have this and other seasons before the next Olympics come along. As much as we Americans want to think the most important thing is our baseball and football seasons, there remains something about the Olympics that they KNOW is really special. The opportunity to really see the very BEST of world sports.
People know how important the Olympics really are. As long as the Olympics continues doing what it has been doing and keeps providing people with the BEST of the best in terms of sports competition in a magical, fairy tale atmosphere, the world will continue to see it as the very special place where incredible sporting feats happen. And they will HAVE to see every time it comes along, because they know that somehow, some way, they will see something that transcends regular sports.