The 2012 London Summer Olympics are coming (Bell/CTV please don’t sue me for using your catchphrase) and so begins everyone’s favorite once every four year tradition: pretending to care about the mundane events in the Olympics.
For example, do you really think you are going to find fencing on national television in primetime anywhere else?
This is the downfall of the Olympics, 99% of the sports are only followed when shoved down our throats by the major television outlets that cough up the massive money it takes to get an Olympic television rights bid. Save for basketball and soccer and the Summer Olympics don’t necessarily bring in the major sports and the major athletes. Even the soccer tournament is an afterthought after the Euro and World Cups, with even soccer mad London having difficulties selling out venues for the Olympic soccer tournament.
So for a few weeks every four (or two years if you count the Winter Olympics) degenerate sports fans like myself sit down in front of a television or computer screen at odd international time zone induced hours of the day to watch events we have no clue about. Of course there are the intriguing events littered throughout the list, I do love seeing Canada dominate at rowing, their by far most successful event as of late. And CTV/Bell Globemedia is already prepared to pump the tires of any Canadian within even a dreamers chance of a medal, which does add to the entertainment value of the Olympics when Brian Williams gets stoked on a Canadian being in fifth place one mile into the distance cycling event only to see the cyclist finish 35th. Canada does have intriguing stories heading into the Olympic games though. Shot putter Dylan Armstrong will likely be a contender for a medal after a very impressive season so far, and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal will have a chance to shine in cycling after winning the Giro d’Italia earlier this summer. On the women’s side Clara Hughes is still going strong at 40 and is looking to add to her massive Olympics haul from the Summer/Winter games in the cycling events, looking to repeat her success at the 1996 Atlanta Games where she won two bronze medals. Karen Cockburn is one of the world’s best trampoline competitors and has earned a medal every year since the event was introduced in Sydney in 2000.
Past that the clear Canadian stars have been put through the media hype in the last couple of days as Alexandre Despatie and Christine Sinclair have popped up on CTV and Bell’s stations advertising at least once every half hour in the lead up to the games. Despatie undoubtedly has the most pressure on him heading into London as the poster boy for the “Believe” commercials (you might remember the advertisement with the all-black barbershop being portrayed as the ten biggest diving fans in the world) and now has the unfair pressure of being expected to deliver Canada a medal.
On the other hand Christine Sinclair is expected to lead Canada’s women’s soccer team to success despite not advancing out of group play in the Women’s World Cup. It is very clear that CTV’s main aim is to try to re-create the magic of the 2010 Vancouver Games in the hopes of continuing the massive ratings that they received in their first go as Olympic broadcasters. However with no clear chance at Canadian dominance and the lack of the marquee event of hockey that the winter games possess, CTV is setting themselves and their Canadian athletes up for a fall by creating unrealistic expectations. You can’t expect millions of people to wake up at five in the morning to catch the triathlon and you can’t expect athletes to perform out of their heads just because you spent half of your network’s advertising space on acting like they will.
The Summer Olympics is a sporting tradition and to some people is one of the best sporting events in the world, but you will find it hard to convince me that a bunch of sports none of you care about at any other point in the sporting calendar is truly special. I get that these fringe sports and their athletes get their moment in the spotlight and a chance to make some money and earn some recognition for their lifelong dedication to sport, but there is usually a reason to why no one cares or watches the sports that are in the Olympics. Sure I love to catch a few of my favorite fringe events, I enjoy getting to catch volleyball and boxing, but I generally find myself unimpressed with most of the Olympic schedule.
The marquee events will probably provide enough entertainment to make the Olympics an entertaining success as the storyline of Michael Phelps quest to become the greatest Olympian ever in the face of his Team USA rival is sure to provide for some drama in the pool on top of Usain Bolt’s hamstring issues and what that will bring to the spring events. However there is only so much that the marquee events can stretch out before one realizes they are sitting on the couch in the middle of the day watching fencing. That is the problem with the Olympics, too much can sometimes actually be a bad thing, and I just don’t think I have the patience or the desire to talk myself into 200 hours of nothingness anymore. I will be keeping up with Canada’s progress and will cheer when they win and be let down when they fail, but just don’t try to tell me that all of this spectacle is the best sports has to offer, because frankly it just isn’t even close.