The day we have been waiting for all summer is almost here; yes, that’s right, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil kick off Friday with the Opening Ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m. CT. (Full schedule here)
I barely remember the 2012 Summer Olympics – I had just graduated high school, and purchasing dorm room decorations took priority in my mind over watching how Michael Phelps performed. This year, though, I’m ecstatic.
Not to take away from the Winter Olympics, because I love a good ice skating routine, but nothing beats watching gymnasts land a triple backflip off the beam, or a runner sprinting around the track at the same pace I drive my car to work.
A lot of my excitement this year stems from this job. In just a few months, I have learned so much about the endurance world, and it definitely makes me appreciate these athletes much more. And while the talent in Chicago alone is impressive, I know I will be blown away by the capabilities of these professional athletes, especially in swimming, biking and running. I’m also looking forward to cheering for athletes that I have interviewed and written stories on. (Read my feature on Ben Kanute)
Since I started here in May, I have been sharing Olympic-related content with our readers via social media, our e-newsletter and our website. Our August/September issue also has stories regarding the games, and that’s just Chicago Athlete. The amount of coverage related to Rio and the athletes competing for their countries is borderline overwhelming, especially for Olympic fanatics.
So often, when people think of sports, they think of the staples: football, baseball, basketball and hockey. When someone asks, “are you going to watch the game?” rarely is it assumed they are talking about the Badminton Championships. That’s why I think the Summer Olympics should take place every year, to even the “playing field” and prominence of all sports.
Now, I understand this request is extremely unrealistic; the reason the games are held every four years is because it takes just about that long to plan and organize for them. Not only is it extremely expensive for a city to host the Olympics, but it also takes up a lot of space and requires a lot of housing for traveling athletes and spectators, which is a reason Chicago is not hosting the games this year. Plus, athletes would be at much greater risk for injury if they had to compete nationally three times more often than they do now.
However, hypothetically speaking, if we lived in a place where none of those factors were relevant, athletics would probably benefit a lot from an annual Summer Olympics.
Let’s take the Tour de France for example; in 2012, when the United Kingdom’s Bradley Wiggins won the race, there was an 18 percent increase in bike sales and related equipment. It’s safe to assume this kind of awareness is raised each time the Olympics is held. If the competition took place every year, the economy of sports equipment would undoubtedly prosper, and amateurs would strive to perform like professionals more often, therefore increasing participation throughout (something road races have seen a decline of in the last two years). Whether people know it or not, they are influenced by what’s happening in the media.
It would also impact the fans; those not participating would be more likely to follow these sports on a regular basis, and remember more than just the Ryan Lochtes and Gwen Jorgensens. More conversations would be had about the smaller sports too, like archery or fencing, giving them more significance on a daily basis. Overall, I think these sports would be seen as more competitive than they are today, and an annual competition in summer sports would potentially hold the same status as the Super Bowl or World Series in the United States.
I don’t necessarily think these sports are neglected, but I do think they are often overlooked; runners in Chicago are in the spotlight during the month of October for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, whereas the Chicago Bears receive headlines year round, yet both athletes put in the same amount of work in order to thrive. All biases aside, I think endurance athletes deserve constant worldwide recognition, and not just every four years.
Plus, doesn’t the news get the reputation for being predominately negative and depressing? For example, the Boston Marathon — it’s more commonly associated with the bombers than the runners. Olympic coverage is fun though, and if that kind of news was shared more often, maybe people would be more inclined to tune into ABC hoping to hear something uplifting.
Obviously, an annual Olympic competition is never going to happen, but at least Americans can be thankful that the Summer Olympics always falls on an election year, which is a much-needed distraction for many heavy media consumers.