olympic sports

Will the Olympics get bigger if they’re only every four years?

My former employer is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a major redesign (sure to be controversial) and a lot of broad-based stories looking at the next 30 years (not to be overlooked).

Among those stories: U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun says the Olympics are only going to get more relevant:

Think Olympics are big now? Just wait – USATODAY.com.

It’s a good argument, but I can see a few issues:

1. If the Summer Games in particular get any “bigger,” no one’s going to be able to host. The price tag is way too high — at least for a non-authoritarian country.

2. In this short-attention span world, can … um … what was my point? …

Oh … right — can the Olympics be more relevant if the U.S. audience insists on viewing these sports only every four years? When will we start paying attention to World Championships, the Diamond League and various World Cups?

And could we have smaller-scale Olympic-style competitions with multiple sports? The Pan Am Games are virtually invisible in the USA. (The Asian Games seem to have a much better foothold in that region.)

Perhaps it’s self-interest, being the editor of a blog that treats Olympic sports as something serious, but I think the USOC and IOC need to think more creatively if they want the Olympic spirit to exist more than four weeks per quadrennium.

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Categories: olympic sports

4 replies »

  1. In the article, Blackmun never actually says the games will get “bigger” – just that they’ll “increase in their relevance”, whatever that means. (The headline writer seems to have equated that with “bigger” but that’s not Blackmun’s fault.)

    It seems like the Pan Am Games do have as strong a foothold in this hemisphere as the Asian Games do in Asia – with one big exception, the USA, where yes, they are invisible.

    You are absolutely right that better promotion/participation/media coverage of the Pan Am Games would go a long way to increase awareness of Olympic sports and make the Olympics themselves more “relevant.”

    Better yet, how about reviving the Olympic Festival? I think a well-funded, well-attended Olympic Festival – with states competing against each other – would be a huge boost to relatively minor Olympic sports. Not that it would make a profit, but….

  2. True, and I could’ve skipped over the “bigger” part. But I thought it was worth pointing out that the Games are already as “big” as any host can handle.

  3. Tough to say, because I think that Frank DeFord is generally right that over the recent decades, team sports have increased in popularity against the individual sports that are generally the backbone of the Olympics. 25 years from now, soccer will probably be more popular in the United States (and it’s already a lot more popular than 25 years ago) making the World Cup more and more of a rival, and basketball will probably be more popular abroad, making them more and more able to do to the Olympics what soccer already does.

  4. There will be Olympics as long as there are cities and countries williing to host these extravagant sports shows. Not necessarily “authoritarian” countries, either, although the Olympics have been used to improve the international image if not standing of otherwise diisreputable host nations. The 1936 and 1980 Olympics would fall into that category.

    American cities keep bidding for the Olympics every cycle so the IOC knows it has a fall back host if more exotic locations are not available or willing. The 1984 Summer games is the best example of that.

    The Olympics are a remanent of the 19th Century. A sports dinosaur kept alive by American television revenues. People have forgotten that the Olympics were left for dead after a succession of disastrous games beginning in 1968 and running through 1972, 1976 and 1980 only to be resurrected and saved in 1984.

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