Is The Olympic Movement Out Of Control? Do The Nhl Owners Need A Swift Boot In The Patootie? Answers Arrrrrre Here!

Marc Elliott

SCANLON…. Are you on Olympic overload yet? I’m not because I do enjoy this very special event. I think that the nations of the world coming together in the spirit of athletic competition every four years is a thing to behold. From the opening ceremonies to the end, I marvel at the myriad of different events and at the stories of the special athletes that compete in them. The opening ceremony itself, with James Bond (Daniel Craig) “picking up” the Queen at Buckingham Palace and escorting her to the stadium via helicopter, finishing off with the Queen donning a parachute and skydiving down to the event, was priceless.

The royals are usually all business, so this deviation to honor one of their most well-known cinematic icons was awesome for me, I have been a huge Bond fan since I was a kid. As for the Queen, when I once read that she served her country working as a mechanic during the WWII effort, she had my admiration from that point forward, never to diminish. As my last name is as British as it gets, I have watched the games with much interest. I can’t say that the pride of my heritage hasn’t been creating some heartfelt emotions as the games have progressed, because it has. Obviously I am going for Team USA first, but the Brits are next on my list, as well as our neighbors to the north (as long as we aren’t playing hockey!).    

As I do understand that these games take place just once every four years, in observing them unfold I have been left to contemplate a few things. The opening ceremony was nothing short of spectacular. In fact, I thought it went beyond the OC in Beijing. (My mother didn’t agree.) Many of the event venues, as in most games, had to be constructed especially to accommodate these Olympic games, at great expense, I’m certain.
In this era, a good many of the athletes, and all of the top-end competitors, do not work while preparing for the games. The training is their job. They get subsidized by the USOC or by sponsors, and getting to the games becomes their sole priority.

When I was growing up, a great deal of the athletes worked, went to college, or both in addition to training. Some may have been fortunate enough to have some sponsors to cover training costs, but many were doing that right out of their own pocket. The opportunities for endorsements and so on were much less than they are today, and the chance to cash in after the games, if you turned out to be a star performer, was not as prevalent as it is today. Some of the best athletes and most awarded medal-wise can expect endorsements into the seven-figure range today. I do not believe that any athlete gets involved with the thought of monetary rewards awaiting them at the conclusion of  a successful games. However, if you were a struggling athlete, how would that not be on your mind?

Each games see some events go and new ones come in. I was surprised to see baseball and softball eliminated while the BMX bicycle event was brought into the Olympic fold. The riders are athletes, to say the least, but I am having a tough time tying this sport to the Olympics. The television coverage was fine as far as I was concerned. I get a rise out of the hubbub over tape delay coverage whenever we see competitions that are several time zones away. I guess that can be chalked up to some pompous American theory that the world should be set up as a convenience to us. After I had read a story about a Russian father getting up at 1:30 in the morning to watch his son’s Stanley Cup games, I was quick to realize that I am just a small part of a much bigger world. Some have yet to catch on  to that.

The plethora of TV advertising was expected, and sadly I didn’t see any ads that I thought were particularly catchy or creative. Some of the commentators and their incessant, well, commentating got to be a bit much. I like Bob Costas, generally speaking, but it might be a good three to four months before I can watch him again. Matt Lauer? I can do without him to begin with, and the Olympics didn’t help his cause with me.

After the opening ceremony, two weeks of some tremendous competition and sportsmanship, and a grand closing event, I am smiling. From start to finish, the production values were top-notch, and I can only begin to imagine the Herculean effort required to pull off this event safely and successfully. I look back to the days, though, when the ceremonies were a great deal lesser in their scope, the commercialization was not as prevalent, and some of my favorite moments were watching the athletes come into the stadium to open the games. The pride on the faces of the athletes, the absolute pride if you were honored to be your nation’s flag bearer, was a thing that gave me some occasional hope for the future plight of our world.

If we can get together once every four years as a world community in the spirit of positive athletic competition and sportsmanship, why can’t we do that all of the time? Sports and the performing arts are two things that we can all rally around, commercialized or not…

NHL COMMISSIONER Gary Bettman announced last week that if the NHLPA and the league do not have a new CBA agreement by September 15th, the players will be locked out once again. This drew the immediate venom of many fans across North America. I was kind of saddened to hear of this possible league interruption, but I wasn’t going to aim my ire at Bettman. Gary represents the league and its ownership to the players—nothing more, nothing less. To view him as the culprit is misguided, in my book. He may advise the owners on some matters, but in situations like this, he is more apt to be the messenger. At any rate, tomorrow the players are offering their counterproposal to the league, and we will go from there. I will be offering further analysis next week. Until then…. PEACE

Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.