The Summer Olympics are upon us and NBC projects huge ratings, thus justifying its 2014 decision to pay $8 BILLION dollars to retain broadcast rights through 2032.
NBC does a great job promoting the Games with wonderful participant profiles to help viewers personally identify with athletes. Who knew that so many were refugees, cancer survivors, or orphans? These profiles are part of the reason that a majority of Olympic viewers are female. Women LOVE the Olympics.
This quadrennial sports extravaganza has drama, triumph and heartbreak. It’s the ultimate reality show— with a worldwide audience.
Records will be broken and thanks to You-Tube, the imagery will last forever. In fact, You-Tube has already immortalized athletes from many Olympiads ago. I sometimes pull up some classic moments when seeking inspiration. Check out Billy Mills’ victory in the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Or Dave Wottle’s triumph in the 800 meter race at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Munich brings back difficult memories. The USA basketball team was jobbed there by the referees, who gave the gold medal to the Soviet Union. The Americans subsequently refused to accept their silver medals.
But Munich should always be remembered for the terrorist assault and murder of 11 Israeli Olympians by Palestinian extremists.
We old-timers have so many Olympic memories … Montreal in 1976, with gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 and Bruce Jenner decathlon triumph … (Whatever happened to Bruce?) … President Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan … the wonderful 1984 L.A. Olympics and Mary Lou Retton … the 1988 Seoul Olympics and Carl Lewis … the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the first Dream Team … Muhammed Ali lighting the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Games … the wonderful 2000 Olympics down under in Australia … 2004 was special in Athens, the home of the ancient Olympics—and birthplace of the modern Olympics in 1896 … the 2008 Beijing Olympics brings to mind the triumphs of USA swimmer Michael Phelps … who in London in 2012 ran his lifetime medal total to 22, including 18 gold medals.
And now all eyes are on on Rio de Janeiro and the first South American Olympics.
As the Games have grown, so has media coverage, which makes the event a lucrative terrorist target. (See above: Munich, 1972). It’s sad that an event that brings the world together should also be such a terrorist target—but that’s the nature of terrorism. The mosquito-borne Zika virus threat is new but perhaps the Olympic-inspired international focus on the problem will speed the development of an effective treatment.
Politics are also inevitably part of the Olympics, although with the end of the Cold War, the East-West rivalries aren’t what they used to be, with the disappearance of both the Soviet Union and East Germany.
Cultural issues still abound, including disparate treatment of females. Some nations don’t even have women’s Olympic teams.
And then there are economics. With all the income inequality in Brazil, was that country well-advised to commit to spending so many billions of dollars on sports?
While terrorism, health, politics, culture and economics remain subjects of considerable attention in Rio, hopefully the biggest stories will be about the athletes. After the closing ceremonies on August 21, NBC will show Olympic highlights, set to music.
Hopefully those SPORTS highlights will be the biggest and best stories to come out of Rio.
Although the basketball was invented in the USA, there were four Olympics when the American men did not win gold medals. What years? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on August 11 include 1992 US Olympic handball player Leora “Sam” Jones (1960) and NBA star Craig Ehlo (1961).
Sportsquote “All I know about Angola is that Angola’s in big trouble.” – Dream Team basketballer Charles Barkley before the American hoopsters’ first 1992 Olympic contest against Angola. (The USA won 116-48).
The Soviet Union won the Basketball Gold Medal in 1972 and 1988. In 1980 Yugoslavia took top honors, and Argentina won it all in 2004.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.