I am writing this while waiting for, and then while watching some of, the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. While I was jogging earlier today I was thinking about the games starting today and began pondering some of the questions I have had about the Olympics for quite some time.
As a (rather moderate) sports fan, I certainly enjoy watching the tremendous skill(s) of the Olympic athletes, and the close competition make for a lot of interesting TV viewing. But there are lingering questions.
Although many, including my wife, disagree, it seems to me the Olympics fosters nationalism, and like most “isms,” that is not something needed in the world today. Of course, the Berlin Olympics of 1936 are infamous for strengthening the Nazi movement in Germany. By allowing only members of the Aryan race to compete for Germany, Hitler promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy. That promotion was helped by the German athletes winning the most gold medals and the most total medals, by far.
A second is concern is the amount of time and resources that goes in to producing an Olympic medal winner. For the individual athlete, there is often such a concentration on the practicing of skills needed to exceed that it is difficult for them to develop a well-rounded life. Perhaps has been/is especially true in countries like the former Soviet Union and China where winning medals was/is often used for nationalistic propaganda.
As for the expenses involved, I recently read where a U.S. Olympic swimmer spent at least $100,000 a year preparing for the last summer Olympics. That is, no doubt, an extreme, but there are certainly great costs involved in training to be an Olympic athlete. And that is one of the reasons most medals are won by athletes from the most affluent countries in the world—or by athletes subsidized by public funds.
And then there is the problem of all countries, regardless of size or wealth, competing in the same contests. This seems to be unfair to the smaller and poorer countries. In interscholastic athletic competition, there are leagues largely based on the size of the schools. High schools with 200 students don’t compete with high schools of 2,000 students, and small colleges, like William Jewell here in Liberty with 1,000 students, don’t compete with the large state universities, like Missouri U. with 24,000 students. But in the Olympics, every country competes in the same contests. So, again, no wonder, most medals are won by the bigger countries.
For many other problems and issues, many particularly related to the current Olympic Games in Vancouver, see "Why We Resist the 2010 Winter Olympic" at http://no2010.com/node/18.