My Unusual Olympic Fury

**Disclaimer: if you really love the Olympics and all that comes with it, don’t bother reading this.  It will only piss you off.

Normally I don’t care about the Olympics.  Not even a little.  But all the hype leading up to it, and the coverage during the games has turned my apathy into anger.

I’m not irritated for the more “obvious” reasons, ranging from complaints about stealing First Nations land, huge municipal costs, and wasted money that should have been spent on social problems – mostly because those problems exist outside of the Olympic games too.

And I don’t have anything against athletes, or the state sponsoring athletes (unless the State is Russia, but that’s a different story).  In fact, though I have little interest in most sports, I truly admire the things that Olympic athletes can accomplish.

But what I really can’t stand is the ridiculous lead up and inescapable manufactured patriotism.

I Believe“, the gag-worthy CTV Olympic theme song that seems to get played every three minutes during the games, and several times a night leading up to the games, is still number one on iTunes (Canada). “I believe in the power that comes from a world brought together as one, I believe together we’ll fly.”  Somehow this translates into Olympic victory?  Maybe if I believe hard enough, Canada will win.

The images of previous Olympic victories demonstrate the very real emotion the games can bring out in the athletes and the spectators.  But the lame lyrics, and images of children’s choirs and waving flags turn clips of a highpoint in those athlete’s lives into cheesy propaganda.

Since the hype on TV (not to mention the giant clock in Vancouver that’s been counting down to the games for several years) is enough to keep me disinterested, I usually don’t watch any of the events unless they happen to be on.  But this past weekend I was out of town visiting friends who are Olympic fans, so we watched the Men’s Mogul event.

As good luck would have it, that was the event to watch.  Alexandre Bilodeau’s gold medal victory was the first of its kind on Canadian soil.

Bilodeau was ecstatic.  So was his brother, Frederic, who we would later learn was Alex’s biggest inspiration.  I felt happy for Bilodeau, despite not giving a damn about mogul skiing.  I felt happy, and then I wanted to move on.  But CTV wouldn’t let me.

Instead of switching the coverage to a different event so that I could be happy for another athlete, I was stuck watching 20 minutes of CTV “analysis” of the event — not about skill or even about the sport, just force-fed feelings.

They re-played footage of his run, and panned the crowd and the excited faces of spectators.  I saw Bilodeau’s disabled brother Frederic’s cheering face no fewer than 5 times, followed up by a segment called “The Difference Makers” — a pre-arranged interview with both Bilodeau boys about Alex’s success.

If it hadn’t been given the cheesy title of “Difference Makers” and I hadn’t been told repeatedly that Frederic was his inspiration, I would still have been very touched by their story.  It was a very lovely story.  But instead, all the clutter distracted me from the message.

So instead of appreciating Bilodeau’s win and story, I’m pissed off at the artificial nature of the whole thing.

As a viewer, I wasn’t trusted enough to feel emotions about the story on my own.  I don’t appreciate having my intelligence questioned – certainly not by a cable network.

Let’s put aside the question of why it is so much more important to win events on Canadian soil and how that makes other gold medals seem so much less important.  I want to know why this fabricated nationalism needs to be shoved down our throats in order for us to support athletes?

I don’t doubt that many people were very excited for this win.  But I wish that as a country, we were given the opportunity to be excited, or even not excited based, because of real feelings, not because a newscast was manipulating our emotions.

Good journalism reports facts and events, it doesn’t create them.  The games, and Bilodeau’s win were events worth watching and reporting on.  The extra features don’t add to the story, they detract from it.  And they piss me off.

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2 thoughts on “My Unusual Olympic Fury

  1. I must say I commend you for your much-deserved hate on creating television. It is the same reason that you appreciate “Dragon’s Den” producers… they’re trying to make good television. What seems to be the difference here is the source material. Sports leads to melodrama and cliche. Producers try to make storylines out of anything to make us feel emotion over something we could care less about. I mean you even plainly say it: who gives a rats ass about mogul skiing?

    Anyways, I appreciate your position, as I too am frustrated with the television broadcasting of the event. On the other hand, though, I really, really, really love the Olympics. I just really detest the way it is televised.

    (P.S. I used to think Canadian sports broadcasting was immune to the cheese-disease, but it appears that this is no longer the case.)

    1. No, no. There’s a difference between putting together footage, songs, etc for the sole purpose of “Nationalism” and “Patriotism”. If they were just editing real events to make a good story that would be one thing, but they actually scripted pieces that weren’t meant to be just good tv, and weren’t really about the athletes. It was bordering on propaganda to create some sense of national pride that doesn’t really exist. All I wanted to see was real people having real emotions about the sports. Instead I got cheesy songs and “The Difference Makers”

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