The Olympics are no longer what they used to be, is it time for them to end?
If you know me, you probably know in a lot of ways I can be an incredible cynic. But I think in this case, I'm offering up a legitimate question.
Is it time to put an end the Olympic Games?
I'm serious here. Allow me to explain.
First and foremost, the TV audience and interest has been steadily eroding for years. It's been dropping like a boulder in a lake for years and in 2022, we're seeing an even steeper drop. The Winter Games are down over 40% daily from the last games in 2020 or more before then, with no signs of improvement or real interest. Many people refuse to watch because of the whole controversy surrounding the games being in China, but I would also argue there just is no longer the same interest level in the events that there used to be.
The lack of viewers apparently won't impact the long-time telecaster NBC. Yet The peacock network has sold out there commercial and sponsorship space for the games. Which is why you're seeing a break every five minutes or less. In TV parlance--even if they don't deliver the audience expected, they'll be fine.
For people of a certain age group watching the games is a "tradition", something that they grew up with. Heck, my generation realistically is the one that will still sit in front of a TV watching the games because it's what we grew up with. For younger generations, not so much. Try talking to a 25-year old and asking them if they'll watch hours upon hours of the games.
Yes, I know, in theory, the event is an opportunity for the athletes to showcase their often amazing talents. I get that. But here's the counter to that--would they not get a chance to showcase their talents competing for the titles their respective sports already offer?
Though I will ask--honestly, how many people are watching or paying attention to relatively unnoticed sports like the biathlon or freestyle ski jumping or speed skating? If not for the games, would we even know those are events? That truly is the one purpose the games continue to serve--but is it really worth the cost? (more on that below)
The next statement may rub some of you the wrong way. It likely, if they ever read it, rub the people who run the games the wrong way. The International Olympic Committee has perpetrated one of the greatest scams in history. Not just modern history.
All of history.
Hear me out: Think about it this way. In order to host "The Games" a country--or city has to build the facilities to host said events and the alleged people who will attend said games. Who pays for that? The IOC? No. The host country's committee? Nope. The host country? Maybe a little. The host city? (ding! ding!) Yup, the host city.
Know any cities with enough petty cash or extra money to pay for a 50,000 seat stadium?
Imagine for a minute the games were going to be awarded to a U.S. city. Who do you think will be paying for the stadiums and venues? You? (ding, ding) Yup. You.
There are countless stories out there of previous host cities and their slew of abandoned stadiums rotting after the games leave. More than you probably realize.
Think of it as an NFL team demanding a state of the art stadium on steroids, with the team not offering up a penny of their own money.
Was there a time where hosting the games brought money to a city in the form of fans/tourists? Yeah, sure there was. Was that influx enough to recoup the cost of building facilities? Or the cost of being a "venue"? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you have to "pay" the IOC to be an official hotel, motel, restaurant or convenience store or whatever. Believe me when I say this--there is a better than average chance this opinion column will never see much time on the internet because I said the word "Olympic Games".
Yes, that's right. The committee runs searches for mentions of their product and will take action or demand a fee for anyone using the term. And that literally means any person or business that uses the term in anything not deemed conversation.
Pro sports teams in the U.S. use inflated numbers and terms to describe the economic impact of their events regularly. And far too many people who don't know any better take those numbers at the word of the sport. Even though it's almost never legitimate or correct. Or in some cases even mathematically possible.
It happened in Atlanta in 2021 when Major League Baseball moved their All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver. The league claimed a $100 million loss for the Metro Atlanta area. Multiple economists shot that theory down quickly but it was jumped on by politicians.
Think about it though. For a game that would bring somewhere around 20,000 out of town fans to the event (stadium seats 40,000--assume locals and others also would attend) Let's hypothetically say they spend $1,000 each on average (big reach). We're talking hotel rooms, meals, drinks etc. That's $20 million. That's an optimistic estimate. Very optimistic.
That all assumes 20,000 people come from out of town and spend heavily. It's a hugely optimistic estimate.
Now try and apply this to the Olympic's. Honestly, I don't really know who travels to the games. Do you? The winter games this year are being put on basically without fans so it's hard to judge, but legitimately how many people travel from other countries to host cities for them? My only comparison were the 1996 games in Atlanta. Yeah, there were a lot of people in Atlanta during that time, more than there normally would have been. And yeah, some came from other countries. How many, I don't know but there were some.
Still, the Atlanta games were not profitable. In fact, the IOC was angry at Atlanta for being creative in sponsorships and other dealings to help draw some extra money to their pockets. Atlanta even repurposed a large portion fo the buildings created for the games unlike other cities.
Yet they didn't recoup the cost.
Much like soccer's "World Cup", the games are essentially offered up to the "highest bidder". The committee's who make the location decisions would never admit that, but we know that's the case. Why else would we be talking about the Winter Games in Beijing, China? Or the "World Cup" in Qatar?
There was a time, in a romanticized bygone era/generation where the games were played by athletes who were alleged amateurs, competing at what would be considered the pinnacle of their semi-obscure sport. Now days--everyone is a professional and winning a medal is not the same as winning the championship in your chosen sport.
50 years ago, having the best amateur athletes in the world gathering in one place to compete and see who is the best was a wholesome, warm memory for those of us a certain age. That world no longer exists and as much as you want to sit there and say life was so much better back then and why can't it be like that again, it can't. It never will. You can't go backwards, life does not work that way.
Don't get me wrong--the idea of a sporting spectacle drawing people in a country together in theory is a wonderful thing. There are very few downsides to that. Heck, the Super Bowl does it here in the U.S.
But with so many things for people to do these days, with so many options to occupy time, why tune in to the Olympic Games? What incentive do you have to watch? There are far too many options on video and in life to draw everyone together and watch something happening on the other side of the globe.
Maybe I'm just being cynical about all of this. Maybe I'm a hater. For me personally, I have no interest in watching the Winter Games. Or really the Summer Games. But that's just me.
I'm not naive enough to believe that me or my circle of friends believing nobody cares about the Olympics speaks to everyone. Because clearly it doesn't. It's just my opinion. Really, if you think about it there is no "everybody thinks" or "everybody says" about, well anything. Because on a planet with, what, four billion people, what are the odds any of us really speaks for everyone.
Think about it....