As our athletes get ready to rumble we put the Olympics head-to-head with itself.
Another instalment of the Olympic Games kicks off on Friday, 7 February 2014 and although no-one can tell me (without the assistance of Google) what the colours of the Olympic flag represent, everyone seems to enjoy the Olympics (the colours of the flag represent the five continents of the world although Baron Pierre de Coubertin said that the five colours combined with the white background represented the colours of the flags of all nations at that time the flag was designed).
Why do we love the Olympics?
For some it’s the spectacle. For others it is national pride. Even sports haters seem to get into it. Today we pitch the Olympics against itself and determine whether sport is the real winner.
Why the Winter Olympics rock?
1. The United States doesn’t automatically win
No offence to all the Americans out there. I eat your burgers. I watch your movies. I definitely watch your sport. Frankly, U.S domination gets a little boring (unless you are an American) and when it comes to the Winter Olympics (and the Soccer World Cup for that matter) the U.S aren’t the prohibitive favourite in every event. In fact in the most recent Games the U.S finished 3rd (Vancouver 2010), 2nd (Turin 2006), 3rd (Salt Lake City 2002) and 5th (Nagano, 1998) and the medal tally was close. In the Winter Olympics you always get the feeling that every event is wide open (certainly from an international perspective). The Summer Olympics are a different story. Although the Kenyans, the Jamaicans and the Chinese have their special events you generally expect the U.S to win or medal in a large percentage of events. There is certainly a greater sense of inevitability about it.
2. Australia is not very good so falling over and winning gold = knighthood
It is a well known fact that Australia doesn’t have a lot of snow. Viewing Channel 10’s promo for the games will tell you that. Consequently, Australia has only won a handful of medals in the Winter Olympics (9 all up, 5 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze) and for that reason expectation levels are low or at least they should be low. That isn’t stopping various newspapers heralding the Australian team in Sochi as the best ever, however, given Australia didn’t win its first medal until 1994 I think it is safe to say that just medalling in the Winter Olympics is quite an achievement for the green and gold. The only downside is that we get to see Torah Bright’s wonderful performance 433 times.
3. The opening ceremony isn’t compulsory viewing
For some reason I feel like I have to watch the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics. Invariably afterwards I feel like its 7 hours I’ll never get back. Opening ceremonies always seem a bit indulgent and overrated, a bit too arty or something. After all at the end of the day the opening ceremony is a sports event with no sports. The opening ceremony shouldn’t be a massive cultural and artistic explosion which causes us to rethink our very existence. Luckily for the Winter Olympics most of us don’t feel obligated to watch the opening ceremony and for those that do, the experience never takes quite as long.
4. Ice Hockey
It might be what it is up against but ice hockey seems exciting during the Winter Olympics. Unfortunately we have to wait through 74 hours of figure skating for our five minute fix but I’m pretty pumped when I get there. Before Foxtel existed most Australians only saw ice hockey during the Olympics so the thought of brutally smashing into someone without a ball seemed too good to be true.
Does it get any better than snow? Probably if you live where it snows all the time you have a very different opinion. I certainly wouldn’t relish the thought of shovelling my driveway to get to work for months at a time. When you live in a country that snows exactly 0.45% of the year it looks like fun, especially on TV.
Snowboarding gives the Winter Olympics an X-Games feel. Consequently it just feels cooler or edgier than the Summer Olympics. Unless the Summer Olympics gets mountain climbing or skate boarding I think that’s a win for the Winter Olympics.
Nothing can quite match the exhilaration, speed or excitement of the downhill. Together with the ski jumping (despite its mysterious scoring method) I think there is no Summer Olympics equivalent.
Why the Summer Olympics rock?
1. Australia is awesome at the Summer Olympics
Here are the head to head comparisons for Australia in the Summer and Winter Olympics in terms of medal tally placement (Summer is listed before Winter in each of the following):
London 2012 – 10th v Vancouver 2010 – 13th
Beijing 2008 – 6th v Turin 2006 – 17th
Athens 2004 – 4th v Salt Lake City 2002 – 15th
Sydney 2000 – 4th v Nagano 1998 – 22nd
Atlanta 1996 – 7th v Lillehammer 1994 – 22nd
Apart from the worrying downward trend for Australia post-Sydney its pretty clear Australia is better at sporting events that don’t involve snow or ice.
BTW I checked the medals per capita to see if Australia was ranked even higher and it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be (www.medalspercapita.com). Quite a few countries jump us in the rankings. Don’t look at the rankings by GDP. Apparently if medals were ranked by GDP in London, Australia would have ranked 44th and the U.S 69th. Wow! Your top three new world powers, Grenada, Jamaica and Mongolia!!!
2. Usain Bolt
This is a clear win for the Summer Olympics. Usain Bolt is fast (that is an understatement), charismatic and seems like a genuinely nice guy. I think along with David Beckham and Tiger Woods he is in the top echelon of uber-sportsmen (RIP Lance Armstrong – you should see how many copies of his books are in the second hand bookstore now). No-one epitomises the Summer Olympics like Usain Bolt. Even his name sounds fast. I can’t think of anyone in the Winter Olympics that has more world-wide appeal than Usain Bolt.
3. Sheer volume and quality of sports
The Summer Olympics currently has 41 sports (although why they count Equestrian as three separate sports I don’t know) but could have billions more if time permitted. The Winter Olympics only has 15 and I think that is a stretch. The Summer Olympics has numerous team sports which work as well. Chalk up that one for the Summer Olympics.
4. Every nation in the world participates
The worldwide participation in the Summer Olympics dwarfs their wintery counterparts. At the last Summer Olympics 204 countries participated. In Vancouver only 82 made the journey.
5. The Dream Team
I don’t think there has been anything quite like the Dream Team. They are stars amongst stars and their long hiatus from international competition whetted the worldwide appetite for their first appearance. Apart from some of the sprinters they are the most high profile athletes at every Summer Games. Obviously the 1992 team was the granddaddy of them all but each Summer Olympics since has heralded a new group of super stars. I understand the World Cup/European Championship rotation in Soccer but I think FIFA really misses out by sending the juniors to the Olympics in men’s soccer.
6. Warm the cockles of your heart
204 countries = many, many minnows. Who could forget Eric the Eel? I realise that the Winter Olympics had Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsled team but the Summer Olympics is the home of the underdog. With so many events there is ample opportunity to go for Bhutan or the Solomon Islands. Every now and again they even get a medal but mostly they just do well to finish.
7. Boxing and Judo
The gladiator sports are awesome. It is true that ice hockey is the icy equivalent but nothing quite gets the blood pumping like the boxing or other sports involving fighting. Bring on MMA!
In the end there will always be a place in my heart for both but I’m giving the Summer Olympics a narrow victory in this one.
Questions for you
What is your personal preference and why?
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 13 February 2014 titled ‘All I want for Christmas is my PEDs – has ASADA ruined Christmas for everybody’.