Random thoughts on the Olympics

When did the Games become simply an American TV show?

Published September 30, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

Yes, these are the worst Olympic ratings ever, down 26 percent or 32 percent or whatever from previous Olympics, and the primary reason is that they're being held in Australia and people either can't get home from work at the right time or stay up late enough or already know the winner by the time of the TV broadcast. Got it.

A question: Who are these "people" who either can't find the right time to watch or don't care to tune in? Are we by chance talking about Americans? If so, perhaps American press critics like Bill Carter of the New York Times might suggest that the Olympics is something more than just a TV event staged for the convenience of Americans? That, in fact, it might have a reason to be that's beyond TV? And if the time and location of the games are so inextricably bound to American TV, aren't we admitting that something fundamental has gone wrong in our concept of what the Olympics should be?

I mean, is it possible that the broadcasts are a little more convenient for some others in this global village? Has anyone checked Japan, China or Kenya to see if ratings are up or down?

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Cold War nostalgia

"We need a Russia," presumably to stir up a strong sense of Olympic rivalry. Gawd, am I sick of this one. When did it start? Probably in 1936 with the Jesse Owens Olympics. "We beat the Nazis" -- as if the entire world wasn't thrilled to see Hitler humiliated! Chauvinism -- what a wonderful reason to stage an international athletic festival! I swear, I have friends who wouldn't touch hockey or Ronald Reagan with a 10-foot hockey stick who still think there was something great about "us" beating the Russians in 1980.

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Amnesty for Smith and Carlos

With Olympic officials always patting themselves on the back for restoring Jim Thorpe's medals, will someone suggest that it's time for amnesty toward Tommy Smith and John Carlos? Is a 32-year-old "black power" salute still so controversial? Isn't there one current black runner with a sense of history and resentment of injustice who will raise this issue? Someone not afraid to offend their sponsor?

By Allen Barra

Allen Barra is the author of "Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends."

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