Giving it all for nothing

I am, of course, deeply saddened and troubled by a sense of meaninglessness in the death of young man in a luge practice-run crash just before the opening of the Vancouver Olympics.  The loss of a young life is always double the tragedy.  Any loss that meaningless makes it almost unbearable to think about.

And yes, I believe it is all meaningless.  The Olympics are nothing more than a corporate picnic nowadays, at the expense of the taxpayer.

Because of this, the fact that Chicago lost the Olympics in the first round of voting is something I consider a blessing.  We are already struggling to make ends meet in this area; the Olympics would have sent us over the edge into bankruptcy.  Plus, we would have lost the public use of our lakefront — perhaps permanently — and would have had to pay taxes for that dubious privilege.

Which is to say that a lot of people around here didn’t want the games, just like many folks in Vancouver didn’t want this Winter Olympics, but we were being railroaded by an arrogant bunch of politicians and their corporate buddies.  It was tyranny and oligarchy at its best, until the IOC put an abrupt halt to it.  Not that I love the IOC so much, but for this small favor I thank them.

I believe that the Olympics have become an extravagant burden not only on the general public, but also on the sports that are represented there.  Figure skating comes to mind.

Why figure skating?  Because it’s a niche sport.  That’s a shame because those of us who have actually been skaters in the past know that it’s also an extremely difficult and worthwhile sport.  (I was an adult figure skater, but am no longer because of back problems that were not caused by skating, but by my job.)  The Olympics do this sport no favors whatsoever.  They pick on its fluffiest aspects and use those for the public to see.  The end result is that the Olympics make figure skating seem dumber and funnier and even easier than most people probably think it is already.  And that is a disservice.

As an example, Johnny Weird…no wait, is it Weir…comes to mind.  He’s a U.S. men’s skater who is no gold-medal contender, but was sent to the Olympics probably only for the publicity the USFSA knew would follow (yes, they had a choice in this matter even though he did well at USFSA Nationals).  And so it has.  Right now the Lady Gaga of figure skating is receiving death threats because he has real fox fur on his skating costume.  What?  No pearls glued to his face?

And oh, he’s rooming with the pretty ice dancer Tanith Belbin.  Nothing to see here; I’m sure almost everyone knows that there is no chance of a Winter-Olympics romance, although I’m equally sure that eventually Weir will face something like a paternity suit from some gay-blind fan who insists she was once his girlfriend.

Johnny got the part of the suite with the bathtub, mind you.  Oh, the FLUFF!

Before we go further, get off your high horse.  I am not criticizing Weir because he is gay.  If that were true, I’d be mad at half the athletes in the world of sports — and anyway, “gay” does not equal excessive personal ornamentation any more than “straight” excludes it.  No, what I am protesting here is the effect of excessive froufrou — and the type of publicity it generates — on figure skating.

I say put the skaters in team uniforms and the judges in straitjackets.  This attacks a basic problem with figure skating’s image in the last 25 years or so: the costumes have been getting worse and worse as the judging has been clearly shown to be outright corrupt.

Weir’s fox-fur contraption is just the far end of horrible — it makes him look like he’s in a Mardi Gras parade, for crying out loud, and not performing an Olympic sport where one’s athleticism is what is on display first and foremost (supposedly).  Team uniforms would take away the opportunity for a monumental in-your-face mistake like that.  They would make figure skating look like the actual sport it is, as would fair judging (although I don’t have an answer for that one).

Obviously figure skating isn’t the only sport with image problems, although it likely has the worst.  The Olympics have done damage to countless other niche sports as well, most recently showing the sports’ injury problems up close and personal to the whole world without an answer as to why anyone would subject him or herself to such danger for a dinky little medal.  Or in the case of figure skating, why would anyone get a medal for looking so stupid.

No, I don’t get it.  What I do get is that we have nothing here but a monumental waste of money at a time when the world is short of it.  The Olympics accomplish nothing.  And I haven’t heard any excuse for that at all, let alone a good one.

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