Many good opinions about the Olympics – thanks for all the feedback! Clearly I overlooked speed walking, which can really only be preserved for comedic value.
Here's my question for you: If the Olympics were canceled – say, because 10 years from now China is winning every medal and the rest of world collectively says, "What's the point?" and stops attending – how many of these sports would vanish entirely? I mean, sure, volleyball, basketball, swimming – these sports aren't going anywhere. But the little ones – speed walking, canoe racing, pole vault, hammer throwing, shot putting ("shot putting?" "shotting put?") – would anyone still try to learn them?
Whenever an Olympic gold medalist is interviewed and asked why they wanted to learn their sport, what do they invariably say? "When I was a kid I watched the Olympics and decided I wanted to do that, too."
Which leads to the obvious conclusion – no Olympic TV exposure, no kids saying "I want to do that, too." I'd wager, without the TV exposure and the gold medal moments and the dramatic music and the instant-replay slo-mo, half of these sports would fade away. Kids do not naturally desire to learn to throw a discus. Frisbee, yes. Discus, no. So I would argue that, without the Olympics, at least 1/3 of the Olympic sports would fade into oblivion within a generation.
Accept this logic, and the next obvious question is this: Would the world be better or worse? If no one ever devoted their youth to the dogged pursuit of a gold medal in discus throwing or speed walking or water polo – or even gymastics or figure skating for that matter – would we be worse off? What if all those starry-eyed wannabe Michael Phelps and Mary Lou Rettons devoted the best years of their youth to, say, feeding the poor? Building houses for the homeless? Could you really argue that we were worse off because we didn't have something special to watch on TV for 14 days every fourth August?
Just throwing that out there.
While I'm at it, did I tell you about my idea that we should tax all professional athletes at a 75% bracket and require them to devote their off-seasons to public service?
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