The Olympic Games: Everyone Wants to Compete, No One Wants to Host

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(Photo: Associated Press/Charles Krupa)

Just when it seemed promising that Americans could enjoy an Olympics not being aired at 2:00 in the morning, such chances were dashed today–dashed when Boston mayor Marty Walsh announced that he would not “commit to putting the taxpayers at risk” to cover the expensive costs of bidding for and hosting the 2024 Olympic Games.  Walsh’s press conference occurred a few hours before sources inside the US Olympic Committee confirmed that a Boston 2024 is no longer likely, and therefore there’s little optimism that a post-2016 Olympics will be held in the Americas any time soon.

There’s more to the story, though, than a City and its mayor acknowledging the financial limitations of such a mammoth effort.  The USOC was requiring Boston to sign an Olympic host city contract before it would allow the city to move forward with an official bid. The major detail in this contract would make taxpayers responsible for any “Olympic cost overruns.”  When appearing at the press conference, Walsh went on to say, “I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away.

I’m disappointed to learn that a Boston Olympics isn’t in our near future.  However, I also respect to leaders such as Mayor Walsh and others who have put the financial needs of their constituents ahead of any quest for the honor and glory of being an Olympic host city.  Toronto made this decision a few years ago, and Boston has now done the same.  Granted, hosting the Olympics could bring in millions of dollars in revenue for a host city and create thousands of jobs.  But these jobs would mostly be temporary, which means that any revenue earned by Boston and Massachusetts would pale in comparison to the costs for massive infrastructure overhaul (venue construction, roadway repair, upgrades to public transportation) and the manpower required for public safety and emergency response.

I was a big supporter of Boston 2024, and I’m very frustrated to learn of today’s news.  Yet my frustration and disappointment can’t be directed at Mayor Walsh and other officials who made this joint decision.  I’m frustrated at the USOC and other Olympic officials for not finding  new ways to cover the cost of hosting and Olympic Games.  I don’t want to see the Olympic Games stay alive through large sponsorships.  Can you imagine watching the 2024 Coca-Cola Olympic Games?  The 2020 JP Morgan Chase Winter Olympics?  It’s a horrifying thought.  And yet the IOC continues to add more sports and events, driving up the cost of hosting the Olympics and making such an effort all the more daunting.

I don’t have the answer, but something’s got to give.  Otherwise, the Olympics will remain a major sporting event in which everyone wants to compete, but no one wants to host.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Say It Ain’t So!

thirtysixIt’s been a long time since I’ve written–a long time since I’ve found any inspiration to write about my beloved Olympics. Perhaps today’s entry isn’t due to any inspiration, but rather to take a moment and open my heart, laying out some of my feelings with which I’m conflicted.

A few months ago I was dismayed to learn that a record number of cities had withdrawn their bids to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.  Out of the original six cities which bid, only two remain:  Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Lviv (Ukraine), Krakow (Poland), Oslo (Norway), and Stockholm (Sweden) have all withdrawn their bids.  Didn’t we just have an Olympics in China some eight years ago?  Kazakhstan?  Really?  Never have I seen the selection of an Olympic host city be whittled down by the candidate cities themselves, bailing one by one, leaving the least popular cities as the only two available choices.  It’s already difficult to be excited about a 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.  I’m already frustrated in learning that new medal events will debut at these games:  mixed doubles curling, mass start long track speed skating, snowboard big air, and an Alpine skiing team event.  How much bigger of a circus can these games become?

Let’s see, then there was the report of dead fish filling the harbors near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (host of next year’s Summer Olympics), protests by Brazilians over slum evictions, the growing safety concerns for tourists arriving next year, and yes, the reminder that golf will debut in 2016 as a medal sport.  Yeah, it’s difficult to rally around the excitement which will soon begin building for these next Olympic Games.

Now I’ve learned that in the last few days one of 2012’s great heroes (and a favorite of mine from London) is under investigation for performance enhancing drugs.  Who can forget the gold medal finish by Mo Farah three years ago?  It brought tears to my eyes as he and two other compatriots won gold for the United Kingdom in track and field events.  Now there is suggestion that his win was not earned honestly.    Farah is one of many athletes who continue to fall under scrutiny for alleged cheating.  Some will be cleared of any wrongdoing; others will not, and their Olympic glory will be forever tarnished.  I thought we were past the decade of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs?  Apparently not.  Farah denies all accusations.   I hope his denials are truthful.  Say it ain’t so, Mo!

Sochi’s 2014 Olympics will probably go down in history as one of the most boring and lackluster games of the 21st Century.  The IOC continues to add sports left and right, diluting the value and uniqueness of an Olympic Games and its medals.  In addition, the cost of hosting is leading to potentially great hosts declining or withdrawing from the opportunity to host.  And athletes like Sanya Richards-Ross are demanding compensation in addition to their medals, claiming training costs are too expensive and that IOC members pocket too much money–money that should be given to athletes.

I’m not sure what direction this blog will take from here on.  Imagine how heartbreaking it is for this fanatic to feel so conflicted about the one thing she has loved and revered her entire life!

Say it ain’t so!

Swifter, Higher, Stronger.

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The Most Forgettable Winter Olympics?

Perhaps some of you noticed that I didn’t blog during the 2014 Winter Olympics.  No, my computer wasn’t broken.  Nor was I tucked away somewhere without

Even I wasn't the only one yawning. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Even I wasn’t the only one yawning. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

electricity.  I just didn’t have anything to say.  And that’s not a common occurrence when it comes to the Olympics.  I love the Olympics.  It’s the most exciting thing that happens in my life every two years.  Some might wonder if this is because I have an uneventful life.  No!  It’s because I love the Olympic Games that much.  That much.

One can imagine, then, how disappointed I am over these Winter Olympics.  Okay, I’ll admit I was never particularly excited about Sochi as the host city.  But I put my feelings aside and tried to throw myself into these Olympics as I normally do.  I took vacation days to stay at home and watch.  I even woke at 2:00 AM (or earlier) to watch events live.  But for the most part, the competition was dull.  The venues were architecturally sound, but not worthy of awe.  And when it’s February but the average temperature at a Winter Olympics is 57 degrees Farenheit, something is off.

Throughout the two weeks I kept trying to find that excitement.  Aside from the pairs competition, ladies ski jumping, and the cross-country skiing, there was no sparkle.  No athletes with whom I really fell in love.  No captivating stories.

The only consistency in Sochi was NBC’s continued terrible coverage.  It’s something the network has mastered.   While it offered more live streaming online, it plastered results all over its website.  And rather than forcing me to watch on my laptop, it could have made more use of the other channels it owns.  Quite often as I watched live Olympic coverage online, USA Network was showing re-runs of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and CNBC was airing infomercials.

The one bright spot in these games was NBC Sports’ choice of analysts for figure skating.  While Tara Lipinski  showed poise and articulated

Screenshots from my TV of Lipinski and Weir.  Oh, Johnny!

Screenshots from my TV of Lipinski and Weir. Oh, Johnny!

herself, her colleague Johnny Weir brought much-needed fun and sparkle.  I predicted Lipinski would be in Sochi, and I’m glad NBC decided to also bring Weir to Sochi.  I felt bad for those who weren’t able to watch skating during the day.  They were stuck with Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic for evening analysis.

Yes, it breaks my heart that these Olympics weren’t memorable.  But like any Olympian, I’m going to persevere and set my sights on the future.  I hope that Rio brings its A-game to the table in 2016.  And to Pyeongchang, let me say this:   I can’t handle another dud of a Winter Olympics.  I expect the next Winter Olympics to be phenomenal.  If you need any advice, e-mail me.  I’ve got some great ideas.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

 

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The Most Important Event at Sochi’s Games

Gorki“The stars seemed near enough to touch and never before have I seen so many. I always believed the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, but I was sure of it that night.” – Amelia Earhart

When someone asks me which event(s) I recommend watching during an Olympic Games, my typical response is, “Watch all  of  it!”  Yes, I still stand by this.  As a fanatic I believe that all of the Olympics are worth watching.  However,  if one isn’t going to tune in for all of the competition, I can say without doubt that there is one event in Sochi worthy of everyone’s attention:  Women’s ski jumping.

Back in 2010 I wrote a lengthy commentary on gender bias in Olympic sports, focusing on the ridiculous and inexcusable exclusion of women’s ski jumping from the Olympics.  The fact that in the 21st Century women’s

Pioneer and Olympian Lindsey Van (Photo:  WSJ-USA)

Pioneer and Olympian Lindsey Van (Photo: WSJ-USA)

ski jumping still wasn’t a part of the Olympic Games….Well, I still can’t wrap my head around it.  Yet thankfully with all the tireless efforts of athletes, coaches, and various sponsors, women are finally getting their opportunity to compete in Olympic ski jumping.  The historical event will begin tomorrow (Tuesday), February 11 with the normal hill  competition.  Pioneers like Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome who fought tirelessly for equality and inclusion in the Olympics are finally seeing the fruits of their labor.  And compared to what they’ve endured over the years to earn their place in the Olympics, launching off a 70-meter hill might be less daunting.

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Women ski jumpers will finally have an Olympic podium. (Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images Europe)

As a child I was inspired by the story of Amelia Earhart.  The tales of her courageous adventurous spirit and her belief in gender equality helped make me who I am today.  How many young girls out there have been–and will be–inspired by Lindsey Van Jessica Jerome, or Sara Takanashi?  How many of them watching this week will be encouraged by these athletes’ bold determination, mesmerized as they watch them soar through the air under a Sochi evening sky? Regardless of who will be standing on the podium tomorrow night, all of Sochi’s female jumpers deserve role model status.  Their dogged determination, conviction, and bravery is to be celebrated. Their gallantry deserves the gratitude of all women, old and young.

There will be other memorable stirring moments in these Olympics.  But tomorrow night when the first and last jumpers speed down the hill and launch themselves into the frosty air, history will be made.  And to all of them, I say: Thanks.

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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From Russia With Love: Opening Ceremony & Day One Recap

“Yes, love, ….I knew that feeling of love which is the essence of the soul, for which no object is needed. And I know that blissful feeling now too. To love one’s neighbours; to love one’s enemies. To love everything….” ― Leo TolstoyWar and Peace

Friday night’s theme was love: romantic love, the love of sport, patriotism, and tradition.  With the first portion of the 2014 opening ceremony centered around a girl named Lubov (which is Russian for love), the program then continued with a  brief and very selective history of Russia depicted through animation and theatrical performances.  It was new IOC president Thomas Bach who stole the show.  His first speech at an Olympic Games was the first one of its kind that I can remember.  Never do I recall an IOC President speaking from the heart and making such bold statements.  It gives me hope for the IOC.  Perhaps I am naive.

It was a safe program; and while it wasn’t as visually appealing as Vancouver’s, it edges out Danny Boyle’s disaster of London two years ago.  But I was puzzled by the persons chose to carry the cauldron into the stadium.  Were the Protopopovs slighted because they defected from the former Soviet Union?  Where was Ekaterina Gordeeva?  I was, however, very pleased to see that Irina Rodnina was chosen to light the cauldron with hockey star Vladislav Tretiak.

Day one of the Olympics is usually jam-packed with events.  But after rising at 5:00 AM to watch live competition, I was done by the middle of the afternoon.  I don’t remember the first day’s schedule of events being so sparse.  So what was yesterday’s highlight for me?  Sven Kramer and team Netherlands sweeping the men’s 5,000 meters in speed skating.  I love watching the Dutch speed skaters.  They are a joy to watch.

Tomorrow will be a jam-packed day of Olympics to watch.  I’m staying in my PJ’s and ordering take-out.  Sochi is my Sunday sanctuary!

Faster, Higher, Stronger.

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Shop for the Olympic Look!

Below is a list of countries with links to the designer or retailer websites of 2014 Olympic clothing:

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Russia’s (Fashion) Runway

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Love it or hate it, this is your host country’s uniform.

Interested in where to pick up some of these looks?  Click here for a link to where you can inquire about or purchase these Olympic uniforms!

For some, Paris Fashion Week is the most coveted event in fashion.  For me, it’s the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.  Few are wearing labels like Armani and Ralph Lauren.  And absent are the other fashion powerhouses such as Prada, Dior, and Valentino.  But what’s present is patriotic pride bursting forth in all types of colors, patterns, and lines.  It’s that time again.  Time for the opening ceremony fashion preview!

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