Sunday, July 6, 2008

Refreshing Olympics with Replacements

Today's post by guest blogger Daron Williams, a radio/print media professional and distance learning technician. He is also a graduate student in the Virginia Tech Department of Communication.

In case you’re not aware, the Summer Olympiad begins in about a month. Certainly you’ve heard about it — this athlete won’t be there because of doping; that one won’t be there because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his multi-million dollar NBA contract by risking injury; those who do show up are going to have to wear gas masks because of the poor air quality in Beijing; and the Dalai Lama is asking you not to watch. The only things we haven’t heard much about are the sports and athletes themselves.

Perhaps the Olympics has lost touch with its audience. We need a global games that is up-to-date and more accurately reflects what we’d really like to see in order to bring the focus back where it should be — on the athletes and the sports. With that in mind, maybe the International Olympic Committee should add some new sports to the lineup, and in the interest of time and attention spans, just go ahead and lose some of the old ones. Here’s my proposal:

Lose it: Synchronized swimming.
I mean come on, seriously? Who thought up this ridiculous “sport” in the first place? Next thing you know, they’ll have people dancing on skates in the Winter Olympics and call it ice dancing! Er, uh, nevermind.
Replace with: Dizzy bat race!
Instead of training by attempting to listen to music underwater like competitors in the now-defunct synchronized swimming, competitors train to withstand dizziness, improve their coordination while already dizzy, and strengthen their stomachs to keep their lunches down. And don’t pretend you wouldn’t watch!

Lose it: Judo and Taekwondo.
Great sports, I’m sure, but how many martial arts do you really need? Instead of completely dropping them both, just combine them.
Replace with: Mixed martial arts!
Instead of countries bragging that “our guy beat your guy in a specific discipline,” it’s just straight up, no-holds-barred, “our guy beat your guy to a bloody pulp, period!”

Lose it: Handball.
Given that you’re likely reading this from a location in the lower 48 states, it’s pretty much a given that you’ve never seen this sport take place live. Two teams battle to throw what amounts to a soccer ball in what amounts to a soccer goal, played on what amounts to a basketball court. I mean how easy can you get… they must sell beer at that one!
Modify to: Blindfolded handball!
Just one little tweak turns this yawner into an arms-flailing free-for-all. Perhaps put a couple of speed bumps on the court. Maybe play in a racquetball court with no out-of-bounds area, body checking allowed and encouraged.

Lose it:
Rhythmic gymnastics.
I have a four-year-old cousin who can run around twirling a ribbon, which really knocks off pretty much all the “Wow, that’s impressive” factor that might otherwise occur in this “sport.” Either replace all participants with Playboy Bunnies and require two-piece uniforms, or…
Replace with: Tightrope!
If you’re going to put a prize on balance and concentration, you may as well go all out with it. I’m sure China wouldn’t mind putting 1 million or so of its finest eight-year-old sweatshop employees to work making safety nets.

Lose it: Fencing.
The sport requires quickness, technique, balance, coordination and several other athletic necessities. But the finest fencer on Earth is still no match for any street thug with a 9mm handgun. Live in the now!
Replace with: Beer Pong!
It involves concentration, balance, accuracy and teamwork. As a bonus, beer pong and dizzy bat race are two events that finally give the Irish contingent (not to mention college athletes) a solid chance at the medal podium!

Also disposable: Water polo, modern pentathlon, sailing, badminton
Honorable mentions for add-ons: Ultimate Frisbee, Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course

With just a few tweaks to the schedule, the Olympics can regain their rightful place among the most revered and exciting athletic events on the planet. So support your country in the exciting events (track and swimming). Then, instead of yawning through the rest of the events, use that time to write to your friendly local IOC representative, and hopefully we can see our dreams come true in London, 2012!

Special thanks to Alex Bea for tightrope and ultimate Frisbee ideas.

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