I got up this morning and flipped on Bravo which was covering the Olympic dressage event from Athens. The horses and their riders came thundering down a long path and leapt over a huge Greek urn, through a shallow pond and over a pair of ersatz fishing boats and thence to the inevitable fallen pillar.
No ticky-tacky windmill?
The whole course suggested a threadbare miniature golf course in Manchester N.H.!
Frankly, I shouldn’t complain most of the bigtime name sports in the Olympics have gone completely professional in all but name. If you want to see serious hobbyists, enthusiasts, and raw amateurs doing what they love then tune into the beach volleyball finals, the white water kayaking event or the women’s orienteering show-down.
Yeah some of these sports are little more than fancy avocations…but the Olympics are supposed to be about amateurs making a public display of their peculiar abilities.
And besides, there is something vaguely democratic about this niche competitions…everything else in the Olympics has gone so corporate and upscale.
Which makes for dispiriting viewing in my humble opinion.
Meanwhile our own great white aquatic hope Michael Phelps doesn’t seem to be living up to the hype in the swimming events.
I could’ve told you a week ago that Australia’s Ian Thorpe would smoke Phelps like a cheap cigar in the 200 meter free style (or whatever the event was last night).
It is not that Phelps isn’t great, he is, with many more victories before him.
No, the problem is, he arrived at his first Olympics with a lot of irrational hopes and hype attached to his name so the pressure was on to fulfill a pre-sold prophesy.
Ian Thorpe arrived at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with a lot of expectations attached to his own bad self he didn’t quite put them over either.
So now four years later, free of the hype Thorpe can blithely splash off to glory.
So look for Michael Phelps to put paid to his particular legend in 2008.
Hype is a deadly toxin for any artist or athlete, if the U.S. really wanted to carry the day at the Olympics they’d send the entire squad off under a gag order and in disguise. Leave off the Wheaties’ boxes and equipment endorsement til after the games.