I'm not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, but I think if the Olympics had an event for not being interested in the Olympics, I might just medal… or maybe at least make it into the competition. Personally, I think one of the most noteworthy parts of this worldwide ritual is how overblown the congratulatory self-regard of the athletes (aided and abetted by the breathless commentators) for their accomplishments can often be. I recall a few years back, hearing on the radio about some runner breaking a record, and that runner waxing effusive about how going a few seconds faster on a track had "rocked the whole world" or words to that effect.
Uh… sorry, no.
There is a great big part of the great big world for whom the Olympics is just one more news story out of thousands, and breaking records -- even "world" records -- is in the end merely a matter of temporary statistical change… and "the best in the world" is very often only the best in the world on that particular day.
So I was intrigued to hear on NPR today that there was a time when it wasn't just athletes, but poets, painters, sculptors and others in the arts also who took part in Olympic competition. It hasn't happened for some time -- I think the last Olympic medal given for poetry was in 1948.
But it's certainly an intriguing notion, and it could bring a whole new audience to the Olympics. Of course, by their very nature, such arts contests would require a greater attention span on the part of the audience than that required of most athletic events, which might be a problem.
Could be cool, though. -- PL
Here's a link to an interesting piece on the history of these nigh-forgotten Olympic games: